Sibanye hoping to avert AMCU platinum strike after wage deadlock

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The entrance to the Sibanye-Stillwater mine. (Iavan Pijoos/News24)
The entrance to the Sibanye-Stillwater mine. (Iavan Pijoos/News24)

Sibanye-Stillwater is hopeful that a wage agreement can be reached with trade union AMCU to avert a strike at its Rustenburg and Marikana operations after negotiations deadlocked.

Company spokesperson James Wellsted said on Tuesday the company was continuing engagement with the union after a dispute was declared late last month over the issue. The matter has now been referred to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

"We continue to engage with AMCU on the side. Hopefully we will reach a sustainable resolution," said Wellsted.

He mentioned that they would consider a fair and sustainable resolution that would not impact long term operations.

'Not quite there'

"We still not quite there. There is still a gap, but I think we can get there."

The union, which led a bruising five-month strike at Sibanye-Stillwater's gold operations, is demanding wage increases between R1000 and R1500 for entry level employees.  

The wage offer for Marikana operations consists of an increase of R400 per month for the first year, followed by R600 per month for the second year and R800 per month for the third. Sibanye took control of Marikana platinum operations after the acquisition of Lonmin, with the R4.1bn transaction concluded in June. 

The Lonmin takeover by Sibanye elevated the company to become the world's biggest platinum producer.

Lonmin's Marikana operation was the site where 34 striking mine workers were shot and killed by police in 2012 during a protracted strike over wages. 

Sibanye is saddled with a net debt of R21bn, and Welsted told journalists that the past AMCU strike, which started in November 2018, is one of the factors that impacted the share price in the 18-month period before June 2019. 

Welsted said the company's major debt would be due after 2022, around the same time when the Blitz Project in North America will come into full operation, in a development expected to boost returns for the company.

The company entered the platinum sector in 2016 with the buyout of Aquarius. It has since sealed several acquisitions to become a major player in the Platinum Group Metals sector.

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