Amcu members who work for Sibanye-Stillwater gather for a strike update on a koppie near a gold mine in Carletonville, west of Johannesburg. Picture: ALAISTER RUSSELL
Amcu members who work for Sibanye-Stillwater gather for a strike update on a koppie near a gold mine in Carletonville, west of Johannesburg. Picture: ALAISTER RUSSELL

Facing an estimated revenue loss of R789m a day, 10 mining companies will argue in the Labour Court on Wednesday for an urgent interdict to prevent a secondary strike at their operations by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).

The potential size of the daily loss combined with R300m in lost employee earnings each day of the seven-day secondary strike called by Amcu in support of a protracted strike by its members at Sibanye-Stillwater’s gold mine is likely to form part of arguments in favour of the court granting an urgent interdict.

The losses calculated by Minerals Council SA chief economist Henk Langenhoven show the damaging impact of the secondary strike at gold and platinum companies unrelated to Sibanye in any way as well as Glencore Alloys, Tharisa Minerals and Tshipi é Ntle Manganese Mining.

Hearings due for Tuesday were rolled over to Wednesday, just hours ahead of the strike called to start on the evening of February 28.

Amcu had served secondary strike notices on 15 companies, but withdrew the notifications against four companies, including African Rainbow Minerals, DRDGold, Kumba Iron Ore, Impala Platinum’s refineries, and mining contractor Fraser Alexander.

Of the 11 remaining companies, including SA’s three largest platinum miners and its leading gold miners, Sibanye’s platinum division will not interdict the strike, being a directly related party to the strike called on November 21 at Sibanye’s gold mines.

The 10 other companies will argue for an interdict that they are not directly related to Sibanye and a strike at their operations will not materially affect that company’s gold mines. They will also argue that the consequences of the strike are out of proportion to the objective Amcu hopes to achieve, which is the end of the Sibanye gold strike.

In terms of the Labour Relations Act there are three conditions a union has to meet to ensure protected secondary strikes.

The first two points have been checked, with the Sibanye gold strike afforded protected status and seven days notice has been given to companies Amcu wants to engage in a secondary strike.

It’s on the third point that a decision for an urgent interdict will turn.

“The nature and extent of the secondary strike must be reasonable in relation to the possible direct or indirect effect that the secondary strike may have on the business of the primary employer,” the act stipulates and this could be where mining companies have their strongest argument.

The companies’ lawyers will argue the strike at mining companies unrelated to Sibanye’s gold division is not only unreasonable, but there is no direct or indirect connection between their clients and Sibanye.

For companies where Amcu is the majority union, they would be harder hit by full closures than Sibanye’s gold mines where the union accounts for half the workforce and the mines have continued production albeit at reduced levels.

There are no relationships between the companies and Sibanye that will give them any rights or leverage to persuade Sibanye to grant Amcu’s demands, the other companies will argue.

It is highly unlikely that Sibanye CEO Neal Froneman will take much heed of a secondary strike at other mines, having steadfastly refused Amcu’s demands for a R1,000 a month pay increase for the union’s 14,000 members at Sibanye’s gold mines.

Froneman has said Sibanye signed a wage deal with three other unions and the company would not reopen wage talks.

Sibanye would not “capitulate” to Amcu’s “unreasonable” demands and secondary strikes at other companies would have absolutely no impact on its businesses, he said.

Companies like AngloGold Ashanti, Harmony Gold and Village Main Reef served with secondary notices could lose up to 379kg of gold a day, amounting to R201m of daily revenue lost, said Langenhoven.

In the platinum sector, Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum, Lonmin and Northam Platinum’s Booysendal mine stood to lose 1.3 tonnes of metal a day at a cost of R555m in lost revenue.

“The impact on employees would also be severe where employees in the gold sector stand to lose around R76m in earnings per day while employees in the platinum industry stand to lose R220m in earnings per day,” Langenhoven said.

“These losses will never be recovered and will have a real and negative impact on the lives of employees, their families and communities,” he added.

seccombea@bdfm.co.za