THE BOTTOM LINE
Climbdown looms for union as members mutter about strike
Why Amcu would jeopardise its members’ bonuses and spoil their families’ holiday season is unclear
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) is playing a high-stakes poker game with steely Sibanye-Stillwater CEO Neal Froneman – and the ultimate losers are the 32,200 employees at the company’s gold mines.
Amcu has called a year-end strike at Sibanye’s three large gold mines and supporting structures by its 15,000 members. The mines are coming out of a very difficult first six months of 2018 during which 21 employees were killed in various incidents.
The operational recovery started slowly in the third quarter, but the wage strike called by Amcu to force through its demands, which it first tabled in July when talks started, is derailing any progress the company saw at its embattled gold mines.
The timing of the strike is peculiar, coming as it does at the end of the year when underground workers push hard to secure bonuses.
Why Amcu would jeopardise its members’ bonuses and by extension impact negatively on their families over the holiday season is unclear.
By some accounts, the timing of the strike is increasingly unpopular, and Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa has painted himself into a corner with his unequivocal demands for a flat R1,000 a month increase after three other unions settled for slightly lower hikes.
Froneman will not back down, having already stated above-inflation wage increases are one of the key reasons for the dismal state of SA's gold mining industry.
The stage is set for a humiliating climbdown by one party or the other, and Froneman is not the type to blink. But then neither is Mathunjwa. However, his hand may be forced if support for the strike from his members evaporates as financial realities settle in ahead of Christmas.