Trade union Solidarity has suggested that precious and battery metals producer Sibanye-Stillwater should “place itself under voluntary business rescue” after the mining house said it would not put a contingency plan in place to prevent retrenchments.
Sibanye and labour unions in South Africa have been negotiating proposed wage increases for employees working in its gold mines in the country.
According to Solidarity, Sibanye has “no intention of negotiating in good faith” and said the miner “does not take into account the interests of its employees”.
The union stressed that this decision was reflective of the company’s “poor financial position” rather than finding solutions or paying its employees according to market-related remuneration.
However, Sibanye has confirmed to Mining Weekly in emailed responses that the group’s financial position is “sound”, though its gold operations “cannot afford to agree to the level of increase [requested] by the unions without consequences to other stakeholders”.
“As we have said before, we will not cross-subsidise lossmaking operations. We also cannot keep on accommodating above inflation costs, as this will just lead to the early closure of the South African gold industry,” the miner said.
Solidarity’s general secretary Gideon du Plessis suggested that the company should turn to “business rescue to get it on the same sustainable growth trajectory as Harmony Gold and Gold Fields”.
According to Solidarity, other gold mine houses were more willing to negotiate with the same unions that are currently negotiating with Sibanye.
The marginal Village Main Reef signed a multiyear settlement in terms of which miners, artisans and officials will receive an increase of 5%, while Category 4 to 8 employees will receive an increase of R800.
The Harmony Gold settlement was even significantly higher, the union said.
Du Plessis pointed out that, during negotiations, Solidarity had requested that there be a certain settlement percentage that could lead to a moratorium on retrenchments. However, Sibanye refused “indicating that no settlement would be able to prevent retrenchments”.
The last conciliation session under the supervision of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration will take place on December 13.
Sibanye reiterated that it continues to engage with the trade unions under the auspices of the CCMA, though it lamented that negotiations have “reached a deadlock”.
“We have increased our offer five times, and the unions have moved very little,” the miner said.