The South African Federation of Trade Unions declares its full support for the mine workers employed by Sibanye-Stillwater, both those already on strike in the gold sector in the West Rand and Free State, and the others in the platinum sector who will begin secondary solidarity strike action in Rustenburg on 20 January in all mines in which Sibanye-Stillwater “has interests”.
Around 12 500 members are expected to down tools, which threatens to bring the company to a standstill.
AMCU President, Joseph Mathunjwa, says that among their demands is one for a R1000 annual increase for the next three years. He argues that Sibanye is able to share R154 million among its 10 executives, and that the pension contribution to its CEO, Neal Froneman alone is R1.1 million.
The union has condemned the company’s arrogance. Mathunjwa said the secondary strike was triggered by a Sibanye statement last week, claiming that the strike has had very limited impact on the group’s gold production or finances, as its platinum operations were unaffected and it was saving on its gold wage bill, as the no-work, no-pay principle is being applied.
Sibanye spokesperson, James Wellsted, said if the strike goes ahead and succeeds, there may be an impact on the platinum group metals operations, “but in terms of the [wage] negotiations, it won’t change anything because we will not be increasing our offer”.
Mathunjwa says the Sibanye statement was the last straw in the protracted dispute over wages: “Sibanye CEO Neal Froneman invited the secondary strike; we are giving him what he asked for. We want to show him not to pit black people against each other”.
SAFTU also calls for unity amongst workers and an end to rivalry that leads to workers turning against each other instead of uniting against their exploiters. Since the start of the strike on 22 November 2018, four workers have died after violence broke out during demonstrations.
The federation also supports AMCU’s appeal against the Competition Tribunal’s approval of Sibanye’s takeover of Lonmin, which the unions says will put thousands of jobs were on the line. Both Sibanye and Lonmin disclosed in 2017 that over 12 600 jobs were on the line in the near to mid term.
As part of the stringent conditions for the takeover, the tribunal levied a six-month moratorium on retrenchments, noting that the merger involved “massive public interest issues involving extensive job losses and impact in the platinum mining region of the North West”.
But SAFTU is concerned about what will happen after those six months. AMCU believes that all the job losses are linked to the takeover the date for which has now been postponed from 28 February to 30 June.
If the government is at all serious about the Jobs Summit resolution that retrenchments must always be a last resort they too must intervene to ensure that these 12 600 jobs are saved.
An injury to one is an injury to all!
Workers united will never be defeated!