Strike ends as Sibanye and gold miners reach settlement

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Gold mine workers have accepted Sibanye-Stillwater's latest offer.
Gold mine workers have accepted Sibanye-Stillwater's latest offer.
Image: National Union Mineworkers

A three-month strike at Sibanye-Stillwater's gold operations was called off on Friday after union members agreed to the company's latest offer. 

Against a wage demand of R1 000 increase in each year of a three-year wage agreement, Sibanye workers have settled on an increase of R1 000 for the first year, a R900 increase in the second year and a R750 increase in the third year.

Against a demand of a 6% increase each year, miners and artisans will receive a 5% increase in the first and third years, and a 5.5% increase in the second year. 

Workers will also receive an R3 000 once-off "hardship" payment, a portion of which will be used to cover any debts incurred for food and board on the mine's properties over the past 12 weeks. 

The striking unions - the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) - downed tools on 10 March and have since struggled to reach an agreement with the employer. The deal follows a further process that took place under the auspices of the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) this week, after Sibanye-Stillwater proposed that the commission mediate.

At Friday's mass meeting at the Driefontein mine, union members agreed to accept the latest offer. 

"We have to formalise it, but the mandate is that we can sign," AMCU president Joseph Mathunjwa told Fin24. 

"These workers are earning a low salary. We are trying to push up the basic salary. This is not a good offer. But under the circumstances [it was accepted]," he said, commending workers for "standing the test of time" in the face of a "shrewd employer" like Sibanye-Stillwater and its CEO Neal Froneman.

While a profit share scheme is not part of the deal, Mathunjwa said discussions about the format of such an arrangement are ongoing.

For the agreement to be binding and in order for the lock-out to be lifted, the agreement must be formally concluded by Sibanye-Stillwater and the leadership of AMCU and the NUM, the company said in a statement. This is expected to take place early next week.

The final agreement will be extended to all employees in the bargaining unit including members of UASA and Solidarity. Richard Stewart, Sibanye’s chief regional officer for southern Africa, thanked the employees for making their voices heard.

"We also acknowledge the integral mediation role played by the CCMA in facilitating constructive engagements between the parties. We now look forward to returning our South Africa gold operations to stability and profitability for the benefit of all stakeholders."

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