For two straight months, workers at the gold mines of South Africa’s mining company Sibanye-Stillwater have downed tools in strike action, demanding a minimum wage of 1000 rands. The two major unions the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) have on two occasions rejected the offers made by the company. At the outset of the strike, Sibanye-Stillwater offered a base pay of 700 rands and in April, it made what it called a “final offer” of 850 rands for entry-level category 4 miners, both of which were turned down by the striking workers. However, as the impasse goes on, the JSE-listed company announced that four senior directors, two CEOs, a CFO and a COO will receive a cumulative 700 million rands in guaranteed salaries for 2021 and 2021. Nevertheless, the firm maintains that the current offer to the workforce will extend its wage bill to 1.76 billion rands over the next three years and anything further will balloon it to over 1 billion each year. On May’s first edition of Business Edge, Tolulope Adele-Balogun discusses the persistent strike action and its implication for South Africa’s economy. She’s joined by James Wellsted of Sibanye-Stillwater’s Corporate Communications unit.
Even though there are four labour unions, the company considers them all a coalition and as such, implemented a lockout for all workers in its gold unit following the declaration of the strike by the two big unions. The other smaller trade unions including the United Association of South Africa accepted the 700 rand offer and have since gone back to work while AMCU and NUM continue to hold out. “It means that this offer is acceptable,’ Wellsted says. “There are certain segments of the workforce that can be put into operating activities… and is a signal to other unions. If it’s been accepted by two other unions, why are they holding out.”
The company also states that instead of having yearly reviews of wages which take considerable time, it agreed with the unions to have longer-term structures in place so as to sustainably pay a fair wage and still run at a profit.
Watch the full episode above.
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