The numbers coming out after the five-month strike at Sibanye-Stillwater’s gold mines are mindboggling and put into context how damaging protracted labour action can be.— Moody’s, the credit ratings agency, estimates the cost of the strike by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) to be R2.2bn. That is about a quarter of the R8.4bn Sibanye posted in 2018 as earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation. It’s a massive amount of money for a company struggling with loss-making gold shafts at its Driefontein and Beatrix mines. Consider that Sibanye issued shares for about R1.7bn and raised a further R1.75bn by selling gold it expects to produce in the final quarter of 2019. For the 14,000 employees who were on strike for those five months in a no-work, no-pay scenario, their combined losses come to between R700m and R800m. For their families this is a devastating loss. Amcu says it gave its members vouchers, but the strikers likely turned to micro-l...

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