Sibanye-Stillwater CEO Neal Froneman. Picture: BLOOMBERG
Sibanye-Stillwater CEO Neal Froneman. Picture: BLOOMBERG

SA’s largest domestic gold producer, Sibanye-Stillwater, faces a strike from the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) over unhappiness with a wage increase settled with other unions.

Amcu said on Monday the settlement with the other unions at the gold operations fell short of its wage demand of R1,000 extra a month and it had issued Sibanye with a 48-hour strike notice, making for a protected strike.

The union, which represents 43% of the gold division’s 32,200-strong workforce, balloted its members on Sunday, securing a mandate to go on strike from Wednesday evening.

Sibanye agreed with three other unions to increase wages of the lowest-paid workers by R700 a month in the first two years of the deal and R825 a month in the third year.

Sibanye CEO Neal Froneman blamed Amcu’s national leadership  for the breakdown in talks, saying they intervened and stuck with their opening demands in the three-year wage negotiations, which were unaffordable.

“The agreement we reached with the other unions is fair and final and considers the current challenges facing our gold operations. We will honour this agreement and have made a commitment that we will not increase the offer,” he said.

The uncompromising stances of Froneman and Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa set the stage for what could be a long strike at the gold mines of Kloof, Driefontein and Beatrix after a very difficult start to the year when 21 miners were killed on the assets.

Sibanye’s gold division earned less for its metal than it paid to mine it during the September quarter and the company lowered its full-year gold target for the second time this year as it struggled to overcome safety difficulties in the first half of 2018.

“Employees who decide to go on strike will not receive wages however, and we will not be increasing our offer, so the decision by Amcu leadership to call a strike, when they are aware of the hardship it will cause their members over the festive season, is perplexing and of grave concern,” Froneman said.

Mathunjwa, in his call for the strike, said: “You are not going to lose anything by going on strike because you have nothing.”

Taking a similarly hard line as Froneman, he said: “We have nothing more to say to Sibanye-Stillwater. If they wish to meet with us with a view of resolving the dispute, we shall make ourselves available during the notice period.”

Froneman appealed for a peaceful strike. At Gold Fields’s South Deep mine close to Kloof, the National Union of Mineworkers called a strike to protest against job cuts and the company said there were incidents of violence and intimidation.