The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) president Joseph Mathunjwa said the union knew there would be a bloodbath of jobs if Sibanye-Stillwater’s acquisition of Lonmin’s Marikana operations was approved by the Competition Commission.
Sibanye announced this week it would cut 5 270 jobs – 3 904 employees and 1 366 contractors – at its Marikana operations in North West.
“We saw it coming. That is why we opposed the sale. We fought it and the government did not support us,” he said, while accusing the company of having planned the cuts in advance.
“These retrenchments are well orchestrated to destroy Amcu and its leadership. They never expected me to come back from the elections as president.”
Mathunjwa said the government was complicit. “It’s exploitation and they have the backing of the government. No one can doubt it’s a neoliberal government,” he said.
Mathunjwa said that under Ben Magara, Lonmin’s chief executive, the same mine had turned the corner and had even posted more than R1.1 billion in operating profit before the sale earlier this year.
Amcu has more than 20 000 members at Sibanye’s Marikana operations. It has 78 000 members in the platinum sector where it is the majority union and has overall more than 150 000 members across all sectors in which it is involved.
Sibanye said the job cuts were needed to stop the financial bleeding as the mine was not making money.
“This is pursuant to ongoing financial losses experienced at these operations with certain shafts having reached the end of their economic reserve lives. The restructuring will result in the rationalisation of overheads and the realisation of other synergies and efficiencies required to restore profitability and ensure the sustainability of the remaining shafts at the Marikana operations,” Sibanya said. “Through a formal section 189 [of the Labour Relations Act] consultation process, the company and affected stakeholders will together consider measures to avoid and mitigate possible retrenchments and seek alternatives to the potential cessation or downscaling of operations at the affected shafts and associated services.”
The company said the section 189 process was decided on after a three-month review period of the mine after it bought it in June this year. The review and planning process included the simulation of alternative scenarios to minimise job losses, it said.
The mine plans to shut three shafts and an open-cast operation. “These shafts and operations are lossmaking and have reached the end of their economic reserve lives. Pending the outcome of the 189 process, it is proposed that these shafts will initially be placed on care and maintenance,” Sibanya said.
Neal Froneman, Sibanya-Stilwater CEO, said the retrenchments were part of the restructuring plan to ensure sustainability of the Marikana operation.
“The proposed restructuring is contemplated to ensure the sustainability of the Marikana operation, which is not a going concern as an independent entity.
“While the review process concluded that certain shafts, most of which were at the end of their operating lives, would be affected, other shafts ... will continue to operate, thereby lessening potential job losses. Overall, the outcome will be a more sustainable business, able to secure employment for the majority of the Marikana workforce for a much longer period.”