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Sibanye-Stillwater faces fresh strikes at gold mines

The company’s Driefontein, Kloof (pictured here) and Beatrix gold mines employ about 31,000 workers. (Image courtesy of Sibanye-Stillwater.)

Sibanye-Stillwater (JSE: SSW) (NYSE: SBSW) said the biggest unions at its gold mines in South Africa had informed the company their workers will go on strike from Wednesday after talks over a new wage deal failed.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), UASA and Solidarity have been negotiating as a coalition since October.

They have been asking for a monthly pay increase of 1,000 rand ($65) a month over the next three years.

After a series of meetings between the precious metal miner offer and union representatives, the company put forward its final offer on February 4. The deal would see underground workers’ wages increasing by 800 rand ($53.47) a month in each of the three years under negotiation. Other categories, including artisans and officials, would get 5% increases over the same period.

The NUM, AMCU and UASA rejected the offer, voting in favour of a strike. Another major union of workers, Solidarity, split from the coalition last week after accepting Sibanye’s final wage increase offer.

“There are no winners in a strike,” chief executive Neal Froneman said in a statement.  “Not only would strike action undermine employment and the livelihoods of many people who depend on the South African gold operations, but employees will gain little to nothing from it.”

Sibanye’s boss also noted that wage increases higher than inflation rates were “not sustainable” and would not be considered.

The company costs are set to increase as it runs some of the world’s deepest and oldest gold mines. In 2021, expenses climbed by 7% to $1,749 an ounce, while gold output rose 10% to about 892,000 ounces.

A strike at Sibanye’s gold operations in 2019 ended after five months, with workers accepting a deal the union had initially rejected.

The company’s Driefontein, Kloof and Beatrix gold mines employ about 31,000 workers.