Gold Fields braces for show-stopping strike

Gold Fields [JSE:GFI] has received a notice of intention to strike from the National Union of Mineworkers for industrial action due to kick off on Friday.

In a statement released on Thursday, Gold Fields said the NUM represented about 80% of the company’s workforce. As such, a strike would impact production, the company acknowledged.

Gold Fields said South Deep Mine would consider ceasing production at its operations temporarily to ensure the safety of workers.

At the heart of the strike is a process Gold Fields has undergone at South Deep Mine to increase productivity and reduce jobs. Before the process, South Deep employed 3 614 employees and 2 214 contractors.

Gold Fields CEO Nick Holland said the company reached "a critical stage in restructuring" at South Deep, following many attempts at improving productivity there.

"The restructuring will help to reduce the risk of continuing operating losses and consolidates the current mining operations as a first step to building a sustainable, long-term operation.

"Unfortunately, the retrenchments and the reduction in contractor numbers have become essential to ensure this and save the remaining 3 500 jobs," he added.

The company said it had consulted extensively with a view to improve the sustainability of the mine and limit job losses.

"This included an offer of voluntary severance packages, which was taken up by 177 employees. Despite these efforts South Deep still has to reduce its workforce by approximately 1 100 staff members and retrenchment letters were sent to these employees on 31 October 2018," said the company’s statement.

Holland said the "no work, no pay" principle would apply during the strike.

"We respect the laws that allow for a peaceful, legal strike, but we are very concerned about the further impact that industrial action will have on the mine - and on our employees, with potentially more job losses," Holland said.

The statement said Gold Fields will announce South Deep's latest production performance as part of the group's third quarter 2018 operational update to be released on November 9, 2018.

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