Workers are the big losers in Amcu’s deadlock with Sibanye
Even if Sibanye relented now, the quantum of wages lost by striking employees would take years to recoup
It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) has scored a tragic own goal with its three-month strike at Sibanye-Stillwater’s gold mines.
Sibanye says it is starting a formal restructuring process that could entail the loss of up to 6,670 jobs at five gold mines at Beatrix in the Free State and Driefontein in Gauteng because they were unprofitable during 2018.
Sibanye says the restructuring was not related to the strike that Amcu started on November 21 to demand a R1,000 per month wage increase, despite a wage settlement reached with three other unions for R700/month in the first two years of a three-year wage deal and R825/month in the third year.
The quantum of wages lost by about 14,000 employees, about half the gold workforce, who remain on strike means that even if Sibanye relented, they would take years to recoup the salaries they have lost so far.
The strike shows no signs of ending, with Sibanye CEO Neal Froneman adamant there will be no change to the wage deal in place. Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa is equally steadfast in not backing down.
Running a restructuring process entailing so many jobs while dealing with a deadlock in the strike promises to be difficult. It will need cool heads and constructive talks to save those jobs, but this is unlikely given the nastiness prevalent in the strike in which three people have been killed, houses torched in acts of intimidation, and other acts of violence.