Sibanye mineworkers to strike until union demands are met

Three of four unions have met and insisted they will accept a three-year wage increase of nothing less than R1 000/month: NUM spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu.

FIFI PETERS: It’s time for us to get the latest on the developments at the Sibanye-Stillwater operations, where unions have been in talks with management since last year, I believe, over pay and wages. There hasn’t yet been a resolution but you should recall that the unions had been granted a certificate to strike by the labour court, and they have been threatening to issue the company with an official strike notice if their demands are not met.

We’ve got Livhuwani Mammburu, who’s the spokesperson of the National Union of Mineworkers on the show. Livhuwani, thanks so much for your time. Can you tell us where things are at the present moment in time? Has the official strike notice been issued?

LIVHUWANI MAMMBURU: Let me correct something. You are right to say that a strike certificate has been issued – but not by the labour court, by the CCMA.

FIFI PETERS: Okay.

LIVHUWANI MAMMBURU: What I can tell you is that we had a mass meeting on Sunday. It was Amcu, NUM, Uasa and Driefontein……?1:15. Members were presented with the offer from the company [to increase wages by] R700 for the first year, R700 for the second year and R700 for the third year. But they rejected it, saying that they want R1 000. At the same time they voted to embark on a strike.

Yesterday on Monday, February 14, we were supposed to have an urgent meeting with the management to communicate the mandate from our members who have voted to embark on a strike. But unfortunately that that meeting did not happen. It’s going to happen tomorrow, after the company proposed that tomorrow, Wednesday, around three o’clock in the afternoon they will be in a position to meet the unions via Microsoft. It is going to be a virtual meeting.

FIFI PETERS: Did Sibanye-Stillwater provide reasons as to why the meeting was rescheduled?

LIVHUWANI MAMMBURU: On Monday they said that they would not be available and requested the unions to resettle the meeting for tomorrow at three o’clock, which is going to be a virtual meeting.

FIFI PETERS: All right. So as things stand as you and I are having this conversation, the unions have not yet issued an official strike notice to Sibanye-Stillwater?

LIVHUWANI MAMMBURU: No, there’s no strike notice. We’ll be able to know tomorrow after the three o’clock meeting whether the unions are going to file the 48-hour notice to embark on a strike – or the company might make an offer really acceptable to the workers.

FIFI PETERS: All right. The company’s current offer is R700, and the workers are wanting R1 000. So what does the middle ground look like for the workers?

LIVHUWANI MAMMBURU: There is only one bargain. It is non-negotiable, that one.

FIFI PETERS: So, in the event that you don’t get this R1 000 a strike is happening within 48 hours?

LIVHUWANI MAMMBURU: Definitely. We will issue a 48-hour notice to go on strike as per the mandate of our members from the four unions – NUM, Amcu, Uasa and Solidarity.

FIFI PETERS: So are all four unions are taking that stance to say it’s either R1 000 or nothing, or are some of your unions open to a middle ground?

LIVHUWANI MAMMBURU: What I can also tell you, Fifi, is that on Sunday only three unions attended; Solidarity was not there. I can’t speak on behalf of them, but members of Amcu, NUM, UASA voted to embark on a strike.

FIFI PETERS: Have you spoken to Solidarity as to why they were not there?

LIVHUWANI MAMMBURU: We have not spoken to them. Unfortunately I can’t speak on behalf of them.

FIFI PETERS: Okay. But what do you think their absence meant? I thought that the unions were all united in this.

LIVHUWANI MAMMBURU: We are United. Solidarity has always been with us. We just don’t know why they were not there on Sunday, but we know that Solidarity is always with us.

FIFI PETERS: And you haven’t asked them?

LIVHUWANI MAMMBURU: Normally they communicate with the chief negotiator, which is our ……4:40 general secretary William Mabapa. I haven’t been in a position to speak to him as to why they were not there, and what their reason was.

FIFI PETERS: All right. I know sometimes it’s not a 100% of all workers who are in support of strike action. There are some workers who are willing to accept a certain level of pay that a company has offered; in this sense it’s R700. So I just wanted to understand the split of workers that were open to accepting something less than R1 000, and the workers that had put R1 000 as the only number that they were willing to take off the table.

LIVHUWANI MAMMBURU: What I can tell you is that on Sunday I attended the mass meeting. All the workers are unanimous, and they’re saying that they want R1 000. The reason why they want R1 000 is because the union signed an agreement last year with Harmony of R1 000 [a month] each year for three years. So they’re saying that if Sibanye Stillwater can sign the same agreement that the union signed with Harmony Gold, they’ll definitely accept it. They are not going to accept anything less than R1 000.

FIFI PETERS: All right. So that meeting you say is happening tomorrow at three o’clock?

LIVHUWANI MAMMBURU: At three o’clock, yes. It’s a virtual meeting where the unions will be reporting back the feedback that they’ve been given by our members – of embarking on a strike. Like I said to you, Fifi, earlier, you might find a situation where the company wants to give an offer. If they give an offer, we will definitely go and report that to our members.

FIFI PETERS: Okay. Then we’ll have to wait and see what happens tomorrow afternoon. But for today thanks so much for joining the Market Update. Livhuwani Mammburu is the spokesperson of NUM.

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