'We never accepted slave wage deal' - AMCU's Mathunjwa on Sibanye

Amcu President Joseph Mathunjwa. (Photo: Amcu)
Amcu President Joseph Mathunjwa. (Photo: Amcu)

Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union President Joseph Mathunjwa has rejected Sibanye-Stillwater's [JSE:SGL] announcement that the protected strike at the gold miner's operations ended on Thursday with the extension of a wage deal between the company and other unions.

During a press conference on Friday, Mathunjwa said the company was dividing workers at the mine to put an end to the strike.

By announcing an extension of the wage deal between Sibanye-Stillwater, the National Union of Mineworkers, Solidarity and UASA, the company said the protection of the strike had ended.

The company also claimed that the NUM was now the largest union at the company in terms of membership. But Mathunjwa said AMCU never accepted the "slave wage" deal and the strike would continue.

"There is no next step. We are still on strike and the strike remains protected. We do not have any documents to convince us otherwise, except for a love letter from executives talking to this agreement extension," said Mathunjwa.

'Falsification of membership'

Mathunjwa rejected the announcement that NUM had become the apex union at Sibanye, insisting that falsification of membership was at hand.

"Before the strike, round about October, we wrote to Sibanye about the issue of union member fraud. They never responded to that letter. We reject the authenticity of this so-called majority of NUM being purported by Sibanye," Mathunjwa said.

Mathunjwa said that he had no reason to trust Sibanye executives and call off a strike. He mentioned CEO Neal Froneman by name, saying that he sought to exploit divisions between unions to weaken workers.

Worst safety record

"Sibanye-Stillwater is a company that has the worst safety record in South Africa, particularly in the mining industry. They have recorded the largest number of fatalities in 2018. This is a company that has built its business on buying old mines then turning them profitable for Froneman and his cronies and forgetting South Africans," he said.

He also had strong words for Sibanye and, in his view, their willingness to use judges and the Minerals Council of South Africa - formally known as the Chamber of Mines - to undermine the interests of workers. 

"The success of Sibanye has been anchored by a strong gold price and gilded by poor salaries to its workers. Major profits go overseas from South African labour. This migrant labour system is facilitated by the Chamber of Mines. I don’t know what they call themselves these days, but they might as well be a museum," he said.

According to a SENS announcement released by the company on Thursday, during the strike the collective membership of the NUM, UASA and Solidarity increased to over 50% of the employees at the South African gold operations.

Prove the numbers wrong

Sibanye spokesperson James Wellsted said because the company extended the wage agreement in compliance with section 23 of the Labour Relations Act, the industrial action AMCU members partook in lost the status of a protected strike.

"They are not stopping the strike and it is now not protected. We extended the deal to them and other workers and as such the strike is no longer protected. Mr Mathunjwa disputes our numbers, but we have made sure of our numbers before announcing them," said Wellsted.

Wellsted said any disruptions to work that does not constitute part of a protected strike would be punished with disciplinary action or dismissal. He urged Mathunjwa to challenge the latest union figures through the appropriate channels.

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