The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), along with other trade unions in the gold mining sector, is today taking on Sibanye-Stillwater at the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) over a wage dispute at its gold operations. Sibanye-Stillwater is the only company that has been unable to reach agreement with trade unions on the wage increases for the coming three (3) years.
This is a similar situation than during the previous round of wage negotiations in 2018, which eventually led to a five-month protracted strike which spilled over into 2019. At the time, all other companies had also reached amicable settlements with trade unions, but Sibanye dug in its heels.
“We said it then and we say it again”, commented AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa. “This company [Sibanye-Stillwater] shows to us that it is the most arrogant of them all. They make hyper profits from the sweat of black workers, but they refuse to pay workers a fair wage”, Mathunjwa added.
Sibanye-Stillwater’s latest offer for surface and underground workers stood at a mere R400 for the first year, and a measly 3,4% for artisans, miners and officials. This is in stark contrast to the R1 000 agreement reached with Harmony Gold, which employs the most workers in the gold mining sector at 40 000.
“It is clear that Sibanye still displays the apartheid tendencies of adversarial industrial relations”, said Mathunjwa. “It shows a level of white supremacy over workers and the notion that they are slaves of the mining bosses, who don’t deserve fair compensation for their hard work”, he added.
Sibanye-Stillwater has been making huge profits despite the Covid-19 coronavirus. According to their operating and financial results declared at the end of August 2021, Sibanye-Stillwater made a profit attributable to shareholders of R24,8 billion as at the end of June, 2021. They also showed a mammoth 59% increase in free cash flow to R17,3 billion and managed to decrease their borrowing with R12,2 billion.
“They are making lots of money, yes, but they don’t invest it in South Africa and the people of South Africa”, said Mathunjwa. “They choose to expand their international footprint buy buying mines in Finland and the United States [of America]”, he added.
In 2020 Sibanye-Stillwater acquired Keliber Lithium Battery Metal in Finland. In 2021, Sibanye has looked at assets in other countries like France and recently acquired a large stake in another lithium mine in the USA.
“Sibanye is making massive profits in South Africa, but they don’t plough back”, said Mathunjwa. “They take our resources and build their own empires in other countries. Why don’t they invest in improving the lives of South African workers? They don’t even invest in safety. Sibanye has killed ten breadwinners this year alone, and many of these deaths could have been prevented if they invested in available technology”, he said.
“There are so many double standards when it comes to this company [Sibanye]”, said Mathunjwa. “Just look at Covid-19, and the way they sent so many vulnerable employees home with nothing. Now, when it comes to vaccination, they still plead that they don’t have money, but they rent former soccer stars to join them in violating the constitutional rights of workers who don’t want to get vaccinated”, he said. “Sibanye-Stillwater is a law unto itself”, Mathunjwa concluded.
For interviews: President Joseph Mathunjwa