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A mineworker walks at the end of his shift at the Sibanye-Stillwater mine in Carletonville. Picture: REUTERS/SIPHIWE SIBEKO
A mineworker walks at the end of his shift at the Sibanye-Stillwater mine in Carletonville. Picture: REUTERS/SIPHIWE SIBEKO

Gold miner Sibanye-Stillwater has put in place stringent rules to ensure its assets are not damaged during the looming wage strike by a coalition of disgruntled mining unions.

In its picketing rules, which Business Day has seen, Sibanye-Stillwater is effectively calling on the unions to rat out troublemakers during the strike, assist the company in taking disciplinary steps against them for any acts of misconduct and, if relevant, assist with criminal prosecutions.

Sibanye-Stillwater has previously said any operational disruptions will “jeopardise the sustainability of our gold operations and will negatively impact the many stakeholders that depend on them”.

In the agreement on picketing, Sibanye-Stillwater and the four unions — National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), Solidarity and Uasa — noted that during past episodes of industrial action there had been “serious acts of violence and other forms of misconduct committed which have infringed on the rights of employees and the company”.

“This agreement seeks to prevent this from occurring in any future strike or lockout.”

The parties agree, according to the agreement, that all employees, irrespective of whether they are members of a union or not, have the right to decide whether to participate in a strike or picket; and that no employee or member of a union will be assaulted, threatened, intimidated or victimised for participating or not participating in a strike or picket.

Picket conveners and marshals must ensure that no employees are in possession of firearms, dangerous weapons and/or inflammable material, or cause damage to property, according to the agreement.

The four unions approached the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) last week to apply for a certificate of non-resolution after wage talks between the parties deadlocked.

The revised proposal by Sibanye-Stillwater made to unions on November 18, which would have increased the employer’s wage bill at its gold operations by R1.4bn in 2023, would have given the lowest-paid employees increases of R570, R640 and R670 over three years.

In terms of the proposal, miners, artisans and officials would receive increases of 4.5%, 4.9% and 4.9% during the three-year term, below the inflation rate of 5% recorded in September and October.

However, last Tuesday workers rejected the proposed deal and stuck to their demand for a wage hike of R1,000 each year for three years.

After the deal was rejected by workers on Tuesday, the company reverted to the offer tabled to unions on October 19, proposing increases of R520, R610 and R640 over three years. Miners, artisans and officials would receive an increase of 4.1% in year one, 4.7% in year two and 4.7% in year three, according to the deal.

Richard Cox, Sibanye-Stillwater executive vice-president for SA gold operations, has described the unions’ demands as “not sustainable”, saying the gold miner will not be intimidated into acceding to above-inflation demands that “will compromise the sustainability of our gold operations and therefore all our stakeholders”.

The parties will reconvene on December 13 for a final engagement session when a certificate of non-resolution will be issued.” The unions will have to provide the employer with a 48 hours’ notice before embarking on a strike.

NUM spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu told Business Day that the unions were still working on the picketing rules. “Sibanye-Stillwater has already submitted its picketing rules, after the unions submit theirs, the CCMA will then issue the certificate of non-resolution to enable us to go on strike,” he said.

Update: December 1 2021
More information has been added to this article.

mkentanel@businesslive.co.za

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