NUM misses deadline to end four-week Goldfields strike

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has missed the 17:00 deadline on Friday to accept a revised offer by Goldfields [JSE:GFI] and end a four-week wage strike against retrenchments at the South Deep mine.

"The NUM branch didn’t accept the offer so the status quo remains," Goldfields spokesperson Sven Lunsche said in a WhatsApp message.

On Wednesday, the company offered a "sweetener" to the retrenchment package, with four-weeks pay. It also proposed to provide sacked employees with skills training and to make provision for a "call-back" option, which will allow them to be first in line to be reemployed if opportunities arise, provided they match the requisite skill set.

The proposed settlement offer further made provision to spread the four weeks of no pay during the industrial action, over four months.

Gold Fields announced a restructuring plan in August for its loss making South Deep mine in Westonaria, west of Johannesburg. The NUM downed tools on November 2 in protest against 1 082 employees and 420 contractors losing their positions.

NUM branch secretary at South Deep Thulani Mashibini said the revised offer was extended to the union’s national office but he had not heard from them by the Friday deadline so he assumed nothing had happened.

Online petition

In a letter to staff on Wednesday, the company’s executives said more than 1 810 employees had used an anonymous online petition to indicate they want to return to work. 

Goldfields has not been able to produce since the industrial action began, resulting in a cash burn of around R6m per day and approximately R70m in lost wages.

 “We believe that the NUM is urging retrenched employees to spend their full packages, promising them that they will be able to return to work in January with full benefits. Not only is this absolutely untrue – it is extremely irresponsible and financially disastrous to the very people the NUM is supposed to care for,” said Goldfields’ executive vice president for South Africa, Martin Preece, and Head of Operations, Benford Mokoatle

Goldfields has steadfastly insisted it is unable to reverse the retrenchments as South Deep - the world's second largest gold-bearing ore mine - which has been unprofitable for a decade, due to deep deposits and rising costs.

A NUM spokesperson said the national office bearers will discuss the strike in a meeting on Monday.

Goldfields share price on the JSE slid 3.9% to R40.36 on Friday at 17:00.

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