Angry Amcu to extend gold strike to Sibanye’s platinum operations
The union has accused bosses of arrogance as the company says the secondary strike will not lead to a higher wage offer
The decision by the Association of Mining and Construction Union (Amcu) to extend its nearly two-month strike at Sibanye-Stillwater’s gold mines to its platinum operations will not affect the company’s pending takeover of Lonmin or lead to a higher wage offer, the firm said.
The trade union, which has been on strike at Sibanye’s gold mines since November 22 as it demands higher wages, plans to embark on a secondary strike next Tuesday at all platinum mines where Sibanye “has interests”, said union president Joseph Mathunjwa.
But Sibanye spokesperson James Wellsted said if the strike goes ahead and succeeds, there may be an impact on the platinum group metals operations, “but in terms of the [wage] negotiations, it won’t change anything because we will not be increasing our offer”.
Mathunjwa said the secondary strike was triggered by an update issued by Sibanye last week, which showed that the strike has had very limited impact on the group’s gold production or finances, as its platinum operations were unaffected and it was saving on its gold wage bill. The no-work, no-pay principle is applied in protected strikes in SA.
The Sibanye statement was the last straw in the protracted dispute over wages, Mathunjwa told Business Day. “He [Sibanye CEO Neal Froneman] invited the secondary strike; we are giving him what he asked for. We want to show him not to pit black people against each other,” he said.
In the third quarter of 2018, before the strike started, Sibanye said the profit contribution from its platinum mines had grown to 85% of the group’s total. Amcu represents the majority of workers at the country’s platinum mines.
Amcu has already appealed the Competition Tribunal’s approval of Sibanye’s deal with Lonmin, which both companies say is crucial to minimise job cuts at Lonmin’s struggling operations.
In December, the two companies set the end of February as the date by which the deal, which was originally announced in 2017, would be concluded.
The strike at Sibanye’s gold operations, which has claimed four lives to date, started after Amcu refused to agree to a wage offer accepted by rivals the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), United Association of SA and Solidarity. Since the start of the strike, these three unions have gained more members, giving them 51% representation at the mining company and allowing Sibanye to extend the agreement to Amcu members. This extension is now also under dispute.
Amcu has been involved in lengthy and predominantly violent strikes since its inception. It led about 70,000 workers on a five-month strike in the platinum sector in 2014.