Gold Fields will cautiously resume operations at South Deep mine on Thursday after the National Union of Mineworkers's (NUM) head office called off a nearly six week strike against retrenchments.
Gold Fields spokesperson Sven Lunsche said the NUM’s head office had informed them the strike is over even though he said he was aware of intimidation tactics that were being used against employees. NUM said it was also aware of these incidents.
Lunsche added that the nearly six week strike had caused “enormous underground damage” and the first few shifts will see essential services going underground and big teams will not be needed.
“We will gradually resume production from Thursday, we have to be extremely careful,” Lunsche said.
The union’s deputy president Phillip Vilakazi said they had also received reports of intimidation and threats being made against members reporting for duty. He encouraged members to return to work saying the NUM only undertakes “targeted strikes” and the protracted industrial action was harming members under the no-work, no pay principle. The union’s national and regional offices have been at loggerheads with the South Deep branch over the protracted strike and last week suspended 13 branch officials.
This followed Gauteng’s regional chairperson Ndlela Radebe being stabbed earlier in December while addressing a mass meeting of members who wanted to return to work. He had previously issued a directive ordering the branch to end the industrial action.
NUM downed tools at the South Deep mine, west of Johannesburg on Friday, November 2 over the axing of 1 082 employees and 420 contractors at the loss making operation.
Talks to continue
Gold Fields at the end of November offered a "sweetener" to the retrenchment package, with four-weeks extra pay. The proposed settlement offer also made provision to spread the four weeks of no pay during the industrial action, over four months. The South Deep branch missed the deadline to accept the offer. Lunsche said the company is still in talks with the NUM and a slightly different offer has been placed on the table.
He could not reveal the terms of the possible settlement as the union still needs to present the offer to its members. The nearly six week strike cost employees R112 in wages and Gold Fields lost R360m in revenue, according to the company’s calculations.
Gold Fields share price rose 5.6% to R45.05 on the JSE on Wednesday. The market had previously been warned that there would be no further production by South Deep in 2018.