Sibanye, unions establish picketing rules in South African gold wage negotiation process

14th December 2021 By: Simone Liedtke - Writer

Dual-listed Sibanye-Stillwater has established picketing rules with labour unions under the auspices of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

Picketing rules, which are a requirement for the issuance of a certificate of non-resolution, are to ensure protests or any form of industrial action – should this occur – are conducted in a lawful, peaceful and orderly manner and is aimed at preventing acts of lawlessness, violence, intimidation and damage to property as far as possible.

The CCMA will consider submissions and carry out inspections of the proposed picketing sites over the course of the next week, Sibanye said on December 13.

This step in the resolution process follows after the miner and labour unions – the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, the National Union of Mineworkers, Solidarity and Uasa – reached a wage negotiation deadlock in November.

The CCMA conciliation process was extended until December 21 to enable the parties to make submissions regarding the establishment of picketing rules, for the CCMA to consider these submissions and to conduct inspections of the proposed picketing sites, if they need to.

With regard to the offer, Sibanye on December 10 said it had, thus far, revised its wage offer five times in a “sincere attempt to reach an agreement that is fair, will benefit employees and considers the sustainability of our gold operations”.

However, it had been unable to meet the unions’ demands, as this would see a R2.5-billion increase to Sibanye’s wage bill.

The precious metals and battery miner would be unable to meet this demand, it said, as it had so far managed significant cost pressures with wages and the cost of electricity being the largest components of costs.

Sibanye’s current wage offer, made on October 19, would see category four to eight employees receive an increase of R520 (4.1%), R610 (4.7%) and R640 (4.7%) in year one, two and three, respectively.

This excludes employee earnings through performance bonuses that make up a significant proportion of employee remuneration, the miner said.

Sibanye’s current offer will increase its wage bill at its gold operations by R1.2-billion by July 1 in 2023, thereby adding about R43 000/kg to its current all-in sustaining costs (AISC) of R820 000/kg.

This compares with the average gold price of R838 000/kg.

In comparison, Sibanye said the unions’ wage increase requests of R1 000 a month, rather than the proposed wage increase, would amount to an additional R2.5-billion on the wage bill by July 2023, thereby adding about R90 000/kg to AISC.

This increase “remains unaffordable” and would erode Sibanye’s margin, threatening the sustainability of its gold operations, it reiterated on December 10.