Gold Fields threatens worker layoffs as restructuring talks stall

Gold Fields (NYSE:GFI), the world's fourth largest gold producer, has begun formal talks with its workers and union about possible labour reductions at its South Deep Joint Venture.

The miner said on Thursday that about 2,384 underground workers were served Section 189 notice, South African labour law that governs retrenchment of employees.

Gold Fields has been in discussion for several months with the National Union of Mineworkers, and other worker groups, about changes to its employee reward systems, as well as requesting  greater flexibility around work schedules and outsourcing.

"Unfortunately, no agreement could be reached with the NUM on the implementation of these changes," said Peter Turner, Executive VP for the Gold Fields South African Region, in a statement.

"We believe this operating model is in the best interests of the vast majority of employees. South Deep is in a growth phase and with these changes we can create an additional 1500 jobs when the mine is in full production."

By 2015 the company wants production to hit 700,000 ounces a year.  Despite the labour impasse, management says its goals won't be impacted.

According to labour laws, Gold Fields has 60 days of negotiations before it may utilize a retrenchment process.

South Deep, is a based south of Johannesberg and produced 273,000 ounces of gold last year. The site has gold reserves projected to last beyond 2070.