Sibanye-Stillwater offers strikers profit share, but unions are sceptical

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Jeff Mphahlele, General Secretary of AMCU.
Jeff Mphahlele, General Secretary of AMCU.
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  • The Sibanye-Stillwater strike has entered its 12th week. 
  • The company has offered a 5% profit share to workers. 
  • Union negotiators are sceptical, but will put the offer to members. 

Sibanye-Stillwater has offered striking workers a profit share of 5% in perpetuity in an attempt to settle the wage strike at its gold operation, now in its 12th week. 

Union negotiators, who themselves are not in favour of the offer, are to report back to workers at mass meeting at Driefontein mine on Friday. The offer was made at a meeting between management and unions on Tuesday.

The parties are only R200 apart with Sibanye-Stillwater offering an R800 increase on the basic wage of R10 237 with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) demanding R1 000. With the gold price at current levels, the 5% profit share would effectively close the gap between the parties. However, should the gold price drop, so will the profit share due to workers.

The introduction of a profit share would be a rational change to the way the wages in mining are negotiated given its cyclical nature and dependence on metal prices for profitability. But unions, whose goal is to raise the level of the basic wage permanently in the gold sector, are not in favour of variable pay. 

Said AMCU general secretary Jeff Mphahlele on Friday: 

"We have rejected that from the negotiators’ side as it is not guaranteed. This month it could be R230 and next month you get nothing. We want something that is constant. While we did not agree as negotiators, we will still present the offer to the masses for discussion."

NUM general secretary William Mabapa could not be reached for comment. 

READ | Carol Paton | Lessons of Marikana strike not learnt as gold strike enters third month

Sibanye-Stillwater spokesperson James Wellstead said on Thursday that the company was disappointed. 

"We presented a few options, including a five year agreement with a 5% profit share. But union negotiators are fixed on achieving the R1 000-a-year increase. What we have put on the table is what we can afford," said Wellstead. 

Sibanye-Stillwater is anxious to avoid a permanent increase in fixed costs, which would shorten the period that its mines will remain profitable. But workers, driven by the growing disparity in starting wages between gold and platinum, which is more profitable, are determined to increase base pay. Entry-level basic wages in the platinum sector are around R15 000 a month. 

With nearly months of wages forfeited already, it will be at least three years before Sibanye-Stillwater gold sector employees are able to recover their financial losses from the strike. 

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