JOHANNESBURG – Sibanye-Stillwater said on Monday that the mediator of the ongoing strike at its gold operations in South Africa would approach the Labour Court to seek guidance about the verification of union membership after it (Sibanye) did not agree with the striking union about terms of reference for the process.
Last month, the Labour Court ordered the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) to facilitate a union membership verification process at Sibanye's gold operations within three days, and report back on progress to the court by latest on January 7, 2019.
This was after the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) filed a notice at the Labour Court in December to oppose Sibanye's extension of the wage agreement to all employees, including AMCU members, after Sibanye had approached the court seeking to interdict a strike and declare it unprotected.
AMCU has been on strike at Sibanye's Kloof, Beatrix and Driefontein mines since November 22, 2018. The union is refusing a three-year wage agreement signed by the mine and three other unions and is demanding a R1,000 annual wage increase for the next three years.
On Monday, Sibanye senior vice-president of investor relations, James Wellsted, said the CCMA commenced with the union membership verification exercise on Thursday, as was ordered by the Labour Court, but said that the process had to be adjourned as an agreement could not be reached.
"Management and AMCU could not agree on the terms of reference for the verification exercise. As such the CCMA adjourned the proceedings," Wellsted said.
"The CCMA will provide a progress report to the Labour Court on 7 January 2019 (today) and will at the same time seek guidance from the court on the way forward with regards to the verification exercise."
Wellsted, said employees at the gold operations started to report for work from Thursday last week already after operations were closed for the festive season, but said some of the employees have not returned though as the strike by AMCU continues.
Sibanye currently employs approximately 32,200 people at its SA gold operations, with AMCU representing approximately 43 percent.
Sibanye had argued that during the course of the strike, the collective membership of three other unions had increased to over 50 percent of employees.
It said that under these circumstances, the Labour Relations Act provided for the wage agreement to be extended to and bind all other employees to the collective agreement, including AMCU.
However, after the Labour Court ordered the CCMA to conduct a union membership verification at Sibanye, the miner accepted the court ruling and said it would cooperate with the CCMA in order to expedite the union verification process.
AMCU was not immediately available for comment on detail, saying that it awaited the CCMA's progress report.