Sibanye-Stillwater on Wednesday urged the president of striking workers’ union Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) to call off a strike which has been characterized by intimidation and violence, resulting in injury and the death of three workers.
Two weeks ago about 15,000 workers affiliated to Amcu embarked on a strike at Sibanye’s gold operations in South Africa after rejecting a wage agreement acceded to by three rival unions. They are demanding R12,500 salaries and an R1,000 annual increment for three years.
Amcu members have been accused of intimidating other workers who wanted to report for duty at the company’s Beatrix, Kloof and Driefontein mines.
In a lengthy open letter to Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa, Sibanye’s head of human resources Themba Nkosi asked him to halt the strike for the safety and wellbeing of employees and the benefit of their dependents as the “no work, no pay” principle applies, meaning they will not receive their December salaries.
Nkosi said both the company and the union should not allow the interests of a specific stakeholder to undermine others and should respect the rights of employees to make different choices, including the right not to strike, without fear of threat or intimidation.
“Unfortunately, the strike called by Amcu has been characterised by intimidation and violence, which has resulted in the needless loss of three lives, several employees being assaulted and has recently resulted in a female police officer being severely assaulted and stripped of her weapon and equipment,” Nkosi said.
“This is unacceptable and we urge Amcu to sign the peace pact that was discussed with all stakeholders and further request your members to refrain from impeding our attempts to secure peace and stability at our operations.”
Nkosi said Amcu’s actions had been vexatious and the union and its members had been uncooperative from the start, refusing to adhere to accepted practices during a protected strike, such as establishing picketing rules.
Sibanye had engaged intensively with Amcu in order to negotiate a fair agreement, which also takes the current challenges faced by gold operations and their sustainability into account, but the union’s leadership had rejected the offer, he said.
“Striking employees will receive no wages if they do not report for work and an extended strike just before the December holidays will result in many of our employees, experiencing significant hardship especially during the upcoming back to school period at the beginning of the year,” Nkosi said. “As we all know there are no absolute winners in any strike action.”
Nkosi said the offer agreed to with other workers’ unions would give employees a guaranteed income of over R12,800 per month in the first year, increasing to over R 14,900 in the third.
“If we include variable pay, such as bonuses and other benefits, an entry-level employee will on average earn more than R14,400 per month in total, in year one and over R16,500 per month in year three,” he said.
“This is significantly higher than entry-level wages in many critical sectors, such as nursing and teaching for instance.”