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SIBANYE-STILLWATER SAYS SITUATION DIRE AS IT LOOKS TO RESTRUCTURE

JOHANNESBURG - Sibanye-Stillwater says the formal restructuring process it has started is expected to last three months.

Sibanye has warned that close to 6,000 miners are in danger of losing their jobs after it recorded losses worth R1 billion at its gold operations in 2018.

However, unions have vowed to fight any threats of retrenchments at Sibanye-Stillwater.

Sibanye says it will look at measures to avoid and mitigate retrenchments in its gold mine operations.

The company has also been plagued by a three-month-long strike by members belonging to the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) who are calling for higher wages.

Sibanye spokesperson James Wellsted says the situation is dire.

“If we don’t do this, the losses that we’re experiencing at these operations could reduce the lives of other profitable operations because that money can be invested in the sustainability of other operations, which now is spent at loss-making operations.”

The company is also expected to announce losses of up to a billion rand in its financial results next week.

Gideon du Plessis, the general secretary of Solidarity, says they’re communication with Sibanye to find alternatives to job losses.

Meanwhile, Amcu has vowed that it will fight any planned retrenchments at Sibanye-Stillwater.

 

Source – EWN

 

AMPLATS CONFIDENT OF SETTLING WAGE DISPUTE WITH NUM

JOHANNESBURG – Anglo American Platinum says it’s confident it will reach an agreement with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) which has declared a wage dispute with the company after talks deadlocked.

The company has offered workers a wage increase of 6.75 percent, while the union is demanding 14.35%.

The NUM, whose members make up a fifth of the workforce at Amplats, has accused management at the mine of insulting its members after it failed to meet their proposed offer.

The union’s Livhuwani Mammburu says the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration may have to intervene.

“The CCMA has to come on board, so it means that the negotiations are going to be held under the auspices of the CCMA.”

Anglo American Platinum’s Mpumi Sithole says they are still negotiating with the union.

“In fact we’re very confident that we’ll find each other very soon.”

Amplats, which is in the process of selling its labour intensive Rustenburg mines to Sibanye Resources, is also in wage talks with its majority union, Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, which lead a crippling five-month long strike against the sector in 2014.

 

Source – EWN

South African union says 36,000 mining jobs under threat in next 3 months

JOHANNESBURG Feb 29 (Reuters) – South Africa’s National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) said on Monday more than 36,000 jobs could be lost in the embattled industry over the next three months, around 7 percent of the roughly 500,000-strong labour force.

The South African mining industry is under pressure from sinking metal prices and soaring costs which have triggered a fresh wave of layoffs across a sector that has shed hundreds of thousands of jobs over the past two decades.

The jobs immediately under threat have been announced by several companies including Anglo American units Kumba Iron Ore and Anglo American Platinum.

The NUM General Secretary David Sipunzi told a media briefing that the union hoped talks with the companies – part of the legal process before workers can be laid off – would result in fewer jobs being lost.

Sipunzi also said that job cuts had seen the union’s membership numbers fall from 206,000 in 2015 to 198,000 in January – the first time the union’s numbers have fallen below 200,000 since its formation in the 1980s.

The union has also lost tens of thousands of members to arch-rival the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) in a bloody turf war in South Africa’s platinum belt.

The NUM’s falling membership will also be a concern for the ruling African National Congress (ANC) because the union, among others, is a key political ally of the party, which faces a tough test from opposition parties in local elections this year.

 

Source – Reuters

 

Amcu snubs higher wage offer

Johannesburg – The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) has rejected a pay offer made by operators including world No 3 producer AngloGold Ashanti [JSE:ANG], stopping short of calling a strike.

Amcu members gathered at a mass meeting at Sibanye Gold’s [JSE:SGL] Beatrix mine on Sunday to consider the final wage proposal tabled by producers, including Harmony Gold [JSE:HAR]. The union speaks for about 30% of the 94 500 employees represented in the talks.

“If we need to go march at their offices we will,” Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa told thousands of workers who gathered at the stadium next to a mine shaft about 300 kilometres south of Johannesburg.

AngloGold and Sibanye proposed on July 30 to raise monthly pay for entry-level workers by R1 000 annually for the three years started July 1. Harmony offered a R500 increase. Basic pay is currently about R5 800. Living-out allowances will be raised by R100 in the first year from R2 000 now.

The crowd on Sunday held banners with Amcu’s demand of R12 500 a month for basic pay, more than double the current wage. Only one of the union leaders from the mines who provided feedback on the stage said workers should take the offer.

The National Union of Mineworkers, the biggest labour group in gold, lowered its demand last month for basic pay to R9 500. However, that is at least 60% more than the current wage.

“The way forward is go back to (the) employer and give them the feedback that their offer has been rejected by the majority of Amcu members,” Mathunjwa told reporters after the meeting. The union will meet again after it hears back from the companies, he said.

The NUM, Solidarity and Uasa unions will respond to the wage proposal by August 7, Chamber of Mines chief negotiator Elize Strydom told reporters on Friday. The companies have said their last offer is final.

 

Source – Fin24

 

AMCU threatens strike over extension of wage deal

CARLETONVILLE — The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) will launch a wildcat strike if its rival union and gold mining companies impose a wage deal on its members, its president said on Sunday.

“If NUM (National Union of Mineworkers) and Chamber of Mines want to extend their deal to us, we will sit down, whether it’s legal or not. We will strike,” Joseph Mathunjwa said to loud cheers from thousands of workers gathered at a stadium in Carletonville.

Under South African labour laws, wage deals between the majority union and employers can be extended to smaller unions.

AMCU union is demanding a more than doubling of wages from gold companies AngloGold Ashanti, Sibanye Gold, Harmony Gold and Pan African Resource’s Evander Mines.

About 10,000 AMCU members wearing trademark green t-shirts, waving the union’s flags and carrying placards with slogans such as ‘A Living Wage For All’ piled into the stadium outside Sibanye Gold’s Driefontein mine.

AMCU led a five-month wage strike last year in the platinum sector. Gold sector wage talks are set to begin this month as the previous two-year pay agreement expires at the end of June.

 

Source – BD Live

 

Economy set to face more labour strife

Johannesburg – The end of South Africa’s longest strike will provide respite for its troubled platinum sector, but the stranglehold unions have over a flatlining economy has not loosened and more industrial action is looming.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) signed a wage deal on Tuesday with Anglo Platinum (Amplats) [JSE:AMS], Impala Platinum (Implats)[JSE:IMP] and Lonmin [JSE:LON] to end a five-month stoppage that dragged the economy into contraction.

Around 70 000 strikers can now return to mines that account for 40% of global platinum output. But production could take years to reach pre-strike levels, while some shafts are unlikely to re-open and job losses are inevitable.

Lonmin, the smallest of the three producers, said restructuring was “inevitable” to ensure its business remained afloat, setting the scene for more labour turmoil.

Amcu is also pushing for a strike in the gold sector although a labour court has so far blocked those attempts.

“There is little sense of relief among investors or the public since the propensity for strikes will continue,” said labour economist Loane Sharp at Johannesburg consultancy Adcorp. “The long-term prospects for the mining sector are bleak.”

The strike has cost platinum producers R24bn in lost revenues and miners R10bn in unpaid salaries, according to the firms.

“It’s  inevitable that the producers’ margins will shrink on the back of this, unless we see a strong platinum price reaction, which has been muted to date,” said Investec analyst Marc Elliott.

Labour reforms

The stoppage may also have emboldened other labour organisations.

The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (Numsa), the country’s biggest union with more than 200 000 members, is threatening to down tools from July 1, a move that would hobble the vital auto industry.

A halt to car manufacturing would hit exports, hammering an economy that contracted in the first quarter for the first time since a 2009 recession, while a weak rand pushed inflation above the top end of the central bank’s 3-6% target band.

“The key thing to watch is what happens with Numsa. That would have a very negative impact on the economy,” said Peter Leon, a mining analyst at law firm Webber Wentzel.

Mining Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi, who played an important mediation role said he wants to overhaul union-friendly labour laws to avoid another prolonged and nationally damaging stalemate.

“What we’re proposing is restructuring of the labour relations regime,” he told Reuters. “It’s not something that will happen quickly. That is a big deal and we do need everyone to buy into that.”

Mooted proposals include more government involvement, limiting the length of strikes or implementing pre-strike ballots, making it harder for union leaders to go on strike and reducing the intimidation that currently prevails.

Source – Fin24

South Africa platinum strike ‘over’

A five-month platinum strike in South Africa is “officially over”, says the leader of the union behind the strike.

Joseph Mathunjwa, the president of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), said it had accepted a wage deal.

He said the AMCU’s striking members would return to work on Tuesday.

The stoppage has affected 45% of the global supply of platinum and played a part in the contraction of South Africa’s economy in the first quarter.

So far the mining companies involved, Anglo American Platinum, Imapla Platinum and Lonmin, have not commented. Management are meeting the AMCU on Tuesday when the deal is expected to be signed.

‘Sign’

Mr Mathunjwa was addressing a stadium full of workers, who have not been paid for five months.

The workers shouted “sign, sign, sign”.

Mr Mathunjwa said the companies had “agreed to the bulk of our demands”.

The strike began on 23 January, when more than 70,000 workers downed tools to demand higher wages and benefits.

Pay deal

The strike has hit platinum production in the world’s top exporting country, with companies reporting a combined loss of 23.8bn rand (£1.3bn, $2.2bn) in earnings.

The deal could mean pay of as much as 12,500 rand (£694) per month, depending on the seniority of the workers, with increases over the next three years.

South Africa holds around 80% of the world’s known platinum reserves. So far stockpiles have kept the markets supplied with the metal, which is key for producing catalytic converters used to reduce automotive pollution.

The South African rand gained almost 1% to 10.5575 to the US dollar, it’s strongest since 9 June.

Source – BBC

Platinum Union Agrees to Take Wage Plan to Members to End Strike

The world’s three largest platinum companies and the biggest union at their South African mines agreed on a wage deal that the labor organization will take to its members in a bid to end a 20-week strike.

“‘In-principle’ undertakings have been reached with the leadership of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union in respect of wages and conditions of employment,” Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. (IMP), the world’s no. 2 producer, said in a statement on behalf of itself, Anglo American Platinum Ltd. (AMS) and Lonmin Plc. (LMI)

The companies expect to get feedback tomorrow. The AMCU is meeting members at various mines today to obtain members’ opinion on the proposal.

More than 70,000 members of the union have been on a strike over pay since Jan. 23, forgoing 9.9 billion rand ($926 million) in wages and costing the producers 22.1 billion rand in revenue.

Impala shares surged 2.6 percent to 116 rand by 1:34 p.m. in Johannesburg. Anglo American Platinum added 1 percent to 483.13 rand, while Lonmin surged 9.8 percent, the most since April 16, 2013, to 260 pence in London.

Source – Andre Janse van Vuuren, Paul Burkhardt and Neo Khanyile , Bloomberg

Govt & business must discuss economy

JOHANNESBURG – With fears growing that the platinum strike is going to continue pushing our economy towards a recession, organised business said now’s the time for government and business leaders to talk properly about the hard issues.

Yesterday Reserve Bank Governor Gill Marcus said while she didn’t expect a recession, the economy is experiencing significant headwinds.

The economy contracted in the first quarter mainly because of the platinum strike.

Business Unity South Africa’s acting Chief Executive Officer Cas Coovadia said several problems are behind our slowing economy.

“There are a number of factors and we aren’t coming together at the right level to talk about the hard issues.”

Renaissance Capital Economist Thabi Leoka was not optimistic when asked directly whether anything can be done in the near future.

“Short term there’s nothing we can do and the strike is dragging the economy down.”

The bad news could continue on Friday when the two big ratings agencies release their latest views on South Africa.

NACTU OPPOSES COMPULSORY ARBITRATION

The National Council of Trade Unions (Nactu) said it’s vehemently opposed to compulsory arbitration being introduced into the Labour Relations Act, as suggested by the new Mineral Resources Minister Ngaoko Ramatlhodi.

Ramatlhodi said South African law needs a legal mechanism that would give him the power to order employers and unions to accept an offer, in the event of a protracted strike or force them into arbitration talks.

Nactu said it opposed a similar amendment to the act in the past and will do so again if it arises in the Nedlac forum.

The council’s president Joseph Maqekheni said, “It’s worker’s rights to decide not accept an offer, so we’ll oppose any endorsed arbitration if it comes into law.”

Source – EWN

Platinum belt strike-hit communities turn on ANC

Tension over the three-month strike in the platinum belt boiled over on Sunday with outraged community members violently protesting over the lack of help from government in Freedom Park, outside Rustenburg. Today, the miners and the community of Marikana will come face-to-face with the president. By GREG NICOLSON.

Madiba Bukhali, an Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) member from Amplats, said four buildings were burnt down in Freedom Park on Sunday and protestors also looted several foreign-owned shops after Sports and Recreation Minister, Fikile Mbalula, was campaigning in the area for the ANC along with Cosatu-affiliated unions.

While local police weren’t available to comment on Monday, police spokesperson, Thulani Ngubane, confirmed to Reuters on Sunday that Mbalula was removed from the area when protestors became a threat. After he left, the protest intensified and police used stun grenades and a water canon. A National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) member told Reuters he saw about 100 people in AMCU t-shirts confronting the tripartite alliance group.

Locals, however, told Daily Maverick the violence wasn’t directly related to the union. It was a community-led protest over the depression-like conditions that have hit the area, populated by miners who service the nearby platinum industry.

Mbalula denied reports he fled Freedom Park in a bulletproof as stones were thrown at him. On Twitter he called the media reports “gutter journalism” and claimed his door-to-door campaign was a success. But multiple tweets from Mbalula emphasised the area’s hostility towards the ANC. Members are intimidated, he claimed. The SA Transport and Allied Workers Union (Satuwu), which was campaigning with the ANC in the area, said people were throwing stones at its election truck, buses carrying shop stewards and other vehicles belonging to members.

Bukhali said the area was fed up with the ANC. “The community say when they voted for the ANC in the 1994 elections they did so because they thought the ANC would be able to solve their problems and help them whenever in need.” Government’s failure to help AMCU and the platinum producers reach a wage agreement is seen as just another example of their failure to deliver. Distancing the mineworkers from the violence, Bukhali said AMCU members met on Monday to discuss how they would protect their property if the protest continued.

Another resident, known only as Albert, said, “From what I saw and heard, the community is very angry at the ANC-led government for what is generally being viewed as neglect. [The ANC] are here because it’s election time and they need to find ways to get to our money. They care less about resolving the three month long platinum strikes. This is why Fikile Mbalula was chased away earlier on in the day.”

Albert continued: “What kind of people will lie and lie and still have the audacity to lie again in our faces? They think we are idiots or what? They can go and tell their lies elsewhere and not here. They may control where they take our money but they will not control our individual lives. We are tired of the ANC’s way of doing things – corruption.”

North West Premier Thandi Modise condemned the attacks. “Workers who are involved in the protracted strike should not be misled into taking out their frustration on political parties that wish to campaign in the area as they are not part to the labour dispute involving AMCU and mining houses,” said Modise.

Thabo Mashomo, SACP district secretary in the Moses Kotane region, said two Rustenbug councillors are homeless after their residences were burnt down. “Since ward 24 [Freedom Park] is surrounded by settlements occupied by employees of the nearby mines, their anger and frustrations due to their long unresolved industrial actions led by a counter-revolutionary union is also acknowledged and might have direct impact on what has transpired,” said Mashomo. “It is a fact that Rustenburg area has been turned into an unofficial political battlefield during this epoch and we will not allow any area [to be] a no-go area,” he continued

AMCU’s industrial action at Lonmin, Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) and Impala Platinum (Implats) has been going for over three months, harming businesses around Rustenburg, leaving many miners’ families hungry, cutting remittances to rural homelands, and leading to children being pulled out of school as parents can’t pay school fees.

The platinum belt has been known for violence since a turf war between AMCU and NUM sparked in 2012. With the added fuel of election promises and workers going without an income, the area looks prone to violence. Last week, a shack used for ANC electioneering was burnt down in Nkaneng, Marikana.

The strike is far from over. In a process facilitated by the minister of labour, negotiations broke down last week during two days of discussions. Many stakeholders hoped the latest offer from the platinum producers might end the costly strike. The platinum companies increased their offer for entry-level underground workers so they would receive R12,500 monthly cash remuneration by July 2017, backdated to last July at Amplats and Implats and October at Lonmin. The figure includes basic pay plus allowances for living out, holiday leave and a contribution to a 13thcheque. “This revised offer is one of the highest increases anywhere in the sector and the country,” said the companies in a joint statement last week.

AMCU was livid after the negotiations. The union wants R12,500 in four years instead of five, before allowances are added. It accused Amplats of negotiating in bad faith, apparently exaggerating the costs of the union’s demands by up to R500 million by including costs for around 4,800 workers retrenched in 2013.

“Their unaffordability argument collapsed when they were forced to acknowledge their false claim. Even the government officials observing the negotiations were left bewildered by their methods,” said the union in a statement.

Amplats’s mistake will add to the negative sentiment from miners who believe the companies can afford the increases but are too greedy. “We were extremely livid at these underhand methods. It is difficult to predict how our members will react and what mandate they will give us faced with this situation,” continued AMCU. “We are left with the strong impression that there is a hidden agenda at play. This too will be discussed with our members and we will work out a joint strategy to break their intransigence and arrogance.” The union says it will inform members of the situation in mass meetings and organise “solidarity action” around the world against the companies.

Amplats, Implats and Lonmin want to bypass the union and take their offer straight to employees. Speaking for the companies, Charmane Russell said a negotiated settlement is the first preference, one reason being that it’s less likely to spark violence. “At the same time, the producers feel that it is important that as many employees as possible know about the offer, and what it entails so that they can make informed decisions. This is made more difficult by the fact that many employees are not at or around operations. We are not aware of efforts by AMCU to reach these members. The employers are certainly reaching out as broadly as possible, including into traditional labour sending areas.”

Russell said the mineworkers are keen to end the strike. “The feedback that employers have received and are receiving from employees directly is that they want to go back to work.  Should employees wish to accept the offer directly, mechanisms for this individual acceptance are being put in place. But this is a process.”

In a letter to all employees last Friday, Implats said no agreement has been reached and outlined their offer in detail. It said AMCU’s demand is unaffordable and urged employees to give the union a mandate to accept the offer. Lonmin sent its workers a similar letter, finishing, “This revised offer is one of the highest increases anywhere in the country. Lonmin cannot pay more. We urge AMCU to accept this offer in the best interests of our valued employees and your families. We ask employees to give AMCU a mandate to accept Lonmin’s offer.

AMCU has said it will consult its members on the latest offer until Wednesday. It’s clear, however, that the strike hasn’t been good for the ANC. It adds fuel to arguments that the party is struggling to maintain a stable economy and while government leaders are careful of getting involved on either side, the latest violence shows some workers and communities, beyond Marikana where many blame the ANC for the 2012 massacre, are starting to think the party has forgotten them.

President Jacob Zuma will do a door-to-door in Wonderkop, Marikana, today as AMCU is set to meet nearby to discuss the latest wage offer. Since Mbalula was reportedly chased out of Freedom Park, alliance structures have repeatedly stated there there should be no “no go” areas for political parties. Zuma’s visit will put the principle to the test.

Source – Daily Maverick