3 000 jobs on the line as Sibanye-Stillwater starts retrenchment talks at Kloof

Fin24 reports that Sibanye-Stillwater has issued retrenchment notices at its Kloof 4 shaft, which could potentially affect as many as 3 000 workers at the gold mining operation near Carletonville. Last week Thursday, Sibanye-Stillwater said it would consult with organised labour in terms of section 189A of the Labour Relations Act regarding the possible restructuring of its SA gold operations. This was due to ongoing losses over an extended period and operational constraints at the Kloof 4 shaft. 

“The initiation of S189 consultations follows numerous unsuccessful attempts to address productivity issues and other operational constraints at the Kloof 4 shaft, including seismicity and cooling constraints which together have contributed to sustained losses, even at recent high gold prices,” the company said in a statement. This was compounded by the recent incident at the Kloof 4 shaft which occurred during a trial run. The conveyance system caused significant damage to the shaft infrastructure and restricted underground access. “Together, these factors have resulted in a severe deterioration in productivity and have jeopardised the financial viability of the Kloof 4 shaft,” Sibanye said.

The possible restructuring of the Kloof 4 shaft could potentially affect 2 389 employees and 581 contractor employees, Sibanye said. Through the formal S189 consultation process, however, the company and affected stakeholders will together consider measures to avoid and mitigate possible retrenchments and seek alternatives to the potential cessation or downscaling of operations and associated services. “We will engage with all relevant stakeholders in an effort to avoid job losses while attempting to limit the impact on the remainder of the operations and employees at the SA gold operations”, said Richard Cox, Sibanye’s executive vice president and head of the SA gold operations.

Spokesperson for the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Livhuwani Mammburu, said the union was only notified of the Section 189 process after a stock exchange announcement had been published by Sibanye-Stillwater on Thursday afternoon. He said the company had further sent out email notices to workers in the midst of a meeting with union leaders. “As the NUM, we are shocked,” Mammburu said. “The unions at Sibanye are not being taken seriously.” Mammburu further bemoaned the fact that CEO Neal Froneman earned $10 million (about R180 million) in 2022, describing it as “capitalist barbarism”.

Gideon du Plessis, general secretary of Solidarity, told News24 the union would fight tooth and nail to preserve as many jobs as possible. “It is very bad timing, because it means that it’s again a bleak Christmas for those who face retrenchment,” he said. “We will now go through the process, and we just hope for a very similar outcome as at Beatrix [and Kloof 1], where we managed to find many transfer opportunities, and we just hope that the same thing will happen. Nevertheless, we have never been through a process where so many people are affected that you can save every job, so it’s still a very dire situation.”

by Lisa Steyn
Ref: News24 (Fin24)

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