Sibanye: Amcu’s crash course in how not to manage a strike
Union has spurned behind-the-scenes offers from the company and the CCMA to end the four-month strike
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) is on the back foot with few options to save face in extracting itself from an extremely damaging protracted strike at Sibanye-Stillwater’s gold mines.
Since it declared the wage strike on November 21 and called some 14,000 of its members to stop work at three large gold mines, Amcu has suffered one setback after another in court.
Behind the scenes there are talks with the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration that have come to naught. Overtures by Amcu to mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe and President Cyril Ramaphosa have met with limited response. There is nothing the politicians can do to pressure Sibanye to give in to Amcu’s demand for a R1,000 a month wage increase.
For Sibanye to capitulate to Amcu’s demand now ahead of wage talks in the platinum sector is unthinkable. Besides, it would put the company in a very difficult position with its three other unions representing half the workers at its gold mines.
For Amcu’s president, Joseph Mathunjwa, to take back any less than a R1,000 a month increase to his members would be met with outrage given the immense hardships they’ve gone through in forfeiting four months of salaries. Even if they got the R1,000 increase, it’s estimated it would take them 15 years to recoup their lost salaries, let alone repay the debt they’ve incurred to keep their families fed and at school since November.
Mathunjwa is nearly out of options. His position as the head of Amcu is surely on the line with this ill-conceived strike. His public comments lashing out at the judiciary, the government and the media are signs of his growing desperation. He has run into a brick wall at Sibanye and his spurning of various behind-the-scenes offers from the company to end the strike has left him isolated and unable gracefully to call his members back to work. In the latest development, Amcu says it has accepted a CCMA proposal of a R5,700 payment from Sibanye, among other items, but that Sibanye had not accepted the proposal.