AMCU embark on protected industrial action at Sibanye Stillwater
21 November 2018
The South African collective bargaining system is continually becoming unresponsive to the needs of poor workers who face sup optimal premiums for the value generated by their labor. The inequalities in the South Africa labor market, between and within job grades are a manifestation of market failures in the redistribution of wealth.
The value of labor continues to be understated and rewarded at a sub optimal premium in order to pave way for competing interests with super profits. Institutionalized collective bargaining is viewed as a vehicle for levelling the unequal playing field between capital and labor. However, in South Africa, this institution has legitimized intensified exploitation with the share of wages declining significantly compared to the share of profits since 1994. It is generally accepted that South Africa is one of the most unequal societies in the world with the labor market a clarion illustration of these inequalities.
In 2017, the CEO of Sibanye Stillwater, earned R139 726 per day a salary that is R22 126 more than the annual salary of RDO worker in the same company who earns R9800 a month. The hourly rate for Mr. Froneman is R17 465.75 which is almost twice the monthly salary of an RDO worker.
The annual salary of this CEO, could pay 434 RDOs of Sibanye for the whole year, illustrating the massive salary discrepancies between lowly paid workers and high earners looters of the Country’s mineral wealth.
The mineral VBS in South Africa has been ongoing for a long time, with workers at the tail end, carrying the brunt for numerous exploitations of labor and mineral deposits.
It is even painful considering that these minerals are natural deposits, given to this Country by God in order to benefit all South Africans. However, workers have continued to give their lives, limbs and lungs for the self-enrichment of the few who have directly benefited from cheap labor.
In 2018 alone, Sibanye Stillwater has incurred 23 fatalities, with no consequences for the top echelons of power who continue to amass wealth at the expense of the sweat and blood of poor workers. Mine work has become more of a death sentence at Sibanye and yet when it comes to rewarding these employees the company is dragging its feet. As AMCU we will not allow the undermining of the value of labor to continue unabated due to insatiable greed from monopoly capital.
DISARTICULATED LABOR MARKET.
The South African labor market has failed to break from the tentacles of apartheid legacy wages which have transcended the post democracy dispensation leading to the erosion of real wages due to percentile and inflation related increases that have been outpaced by the cost of living.
The inflation rate, which does not include administered prices has benchmarked collective bargaining and eroded workers’ salaries leading to numerous decent work deficits. In the mining industry this has been supported by a flawed economic system where commodities are sold in US Dollars and workers are paid in South African rand. In the previous wage negotiation round for the gold sector, the negotiations took place under a depressed climate where the gold price was below a USD $1000 per ounce. However, soon after signing the gold sector wage agreement, with price went up to above the USD $1200 mark and has stayed there consistently for over four years. 4
The increase in the gold price, and the weakening of the rand exchange range meant that companies were able to generate more revenue from shifts in the commodity price without increasing their production levels. The biggest beneficiaries from this process were employers and workers, who were locked in a multi-year agreement could not derive any benefits from this shift.
We are learning that today the Gold price is pegged at USD $1230 per ounce, which is equivalent to R17 222.12 per ounce. This is twice the monthly salary earned by the lowest paid worker at Sibanye Stillwater who is paid R7900 per month.
Currently Sibanye therefore pays half an ounce of gold monthly to their lowest paid worker whose productive capacity is measured in daily tonnages that continue to make executives rich.
The top 10 Executives of Sibanye earned R155 million rand in 2017 in salary and bonuses which is equivalent to 255kgs of gold for the whole year. The amount paid to these 10 executives could pay 1575 surface employees for the whole year. This is an obscene statistic that demonstrate numerous injustices in our labor market. There is no hope of redressing these imbalances if we continue to use a collective bargaining mechanism that is inherently flawed and favors management. 5
One of the greatest Africa revolutionaries, Thomas Sankara, once averred that “to change something, one sometimes needs to use a little bit of madness.” If society finds sanity in the obscene capitalist injustices espoused by unjustifiably high executive salaries as opposed to their lowest paid wages, then an AMCU demand of a R12500 minimum wage should not be put to the rational test of achievability.
It is clear that the problem in the Gold sector is not productivity or the Gold price. However, it is how the wealth generated from this sector is shared amongst role players. Currently, it is clear that executives and shareholders want to benefit alone from this relationship.
Over the years, unions and employers have negotiated wage increases that have increasingly impoverished the nation. To continue and do the same thing, while expecting a different outcome will invariably constitute madness. Therefore, it is important to begin to drift from the norm, as one cannot change anything through compliance.
My quotes is that “Fundamental change requires, fundamental sacrifice”. Our members are prepared to do this in order to achieve a living wage in this sector. It is clear that affordability is not in question, the elephant in the room is how to share this cake which is currently benefiting a few.
We are therefore, herewith, informing the media that our members will be commencing with strike action at Sibanye Stillwater starting with the night shift today, 21 November 2018 as we seek to persuade management to concede with our wage demands using the balance of forces undergirded in protected industrial action.
AMCU commenced with negotiations with Gold Sector employers with demands that were benchmark on our fight for a R12500 living wage. However, as negotiations progressed this mandate was reviewed to a R1000 increase per year.
Through these tough engagements other unions decided to abstain from deliberations and nicodemously went and smacked and grabbed our negotiated revised offer brought by the employer of R700 and quickly signed an agreement without even seeking a mandate from their members.
However, this is a non-event as our members have rejected this offer which is R300 less than their revised demand. With the price of a loaf bread currently pegged at approximately R15.00 the employer offer can only assist the worker to afford 1 loaf of bread per day.
Considering that most mine workers support households with an average 10 family members per day this proposed increase by the employer means that this family will have to live in 1 loaf a day amongst 10 family members. This is a classical poverty wage and will intensify the exploitation of workers. WE THEREFORE REJECT IT.
We will continue to engage the employer to try and find a solution to this impasse. We call on the employer to review their offer and immediately commence with engagement to find an expeditious solution to this issue.
We are aware that we are approaching the December holidays and this Strike will affect workers on the basis of the no work no pay. This reminds us in the days of Apartheid where we use to have Black Christmas to protest against oppressive regime.
However, our members have indicated that this is a necessary sacrifice they are willing to make in order to get a living wage which has eluded them for many years in previous negotiations.
As the union leadership we are humbled by this mandate and invigorated to continue with negotiations in order to achieve a better settlement.