Tense relations with labour are only ‘natural’

At Friday’s commemoration of the 2012 deadly mining strike, which resulted in 44 people being killed, including platinum mine workers, police officers and security guards, Lonmin mine’s new owner, Sibanye-Stillwater, was absent.

This was because the company was not invited to the event, which was run by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).

The decision has raised fears of a protracted stalemate over salary increases which are now under way in the platinum sector.

Both Sibanye and Amcu have been involved in protracted salary talks in the gold-mining sector which were finally concluded when an agreement was reached after five months of protests. That became the second-longest running strike after the 2012 strike involving Amcu in the platinum sector which lasted for six months. Sibanye acquired Lonmin only after that strike.

Marikana in numbers

Amcu is now demanding a R1 500 increase a year over three years for its workers in the platinum sector; Sibanye is offering an increase of R700 for the first two years and R800 for the last year.

Sibanye employs 28 000 workers in Marikana shafts; its overall workforce is about 90 000 across its operations, including in the gold sector.

A company source said this time the stakes were much higher because “anything relating to Marikana remains a highly sensitive matter”.

Amcu said it viewed Sibanye’s offers as “an insult to workers and we believe that Sibanye is trying to provoke us to strike”.

Thabisile Phumo, Sibanye’s senior vice-president for stakeholder relations, told City Press this week that the company had not been invited to the annual commemoration event at the Koppie on Friday but had held its own commemorative functions internally.

Thabisile Phumo

Phumo said the tense relationship with Amcu was only natural as both parties had their own unique circumstances.

“The relationship between management and labour, in fact, even between management and any stakeholders, because we are coming from different perspectives, will always have a natural tension,” she said, adding that the two agreements signed earlier between the company and Amcu had ensured the parties were committed to improving their relationship.

Phumo said the multimillion-rand memorial park project, which Lonmin announced two years ago, was being reviewed.

“Whatever they have committed to in terms of the SLPs [social labour plans], we are going to honour them as they are, but those projects which do not form part of that, we are still getting more briefings on them and we are reviewing them.”

The mine announced a four-phase plan, which would include a park and soccer field, museum, restaurant and the Green Blanket Memorial Park. At the time of the announcement of the plan, the then chief executive, Ben Magara, said the budget had not been set aside for the project yet.

The company said the project had not gone beyond being a mere design, despite an event to launch it.

The company said a design of the Green Blanket Memorial Park was launched two years ago and an extensive stakeholder engagement plan was prepared.

However, the company had not gone beyond the design because it was still waiting for a formal response from Amcu to partner it to ensure it was a joint effort. Once this was done the company would engage with stakeholders.

Mining company, Sibanye recently took over the running and ownership of Lonmin’s Marikana operations after a long-drawn contested acquisition.

The addition of the Marikana operations, 11 shafts in total, under Sibanye had made the company the biggest platinum producer in the world.


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