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EXCLUSIVE: Amcu’s Marikana PGM miners demand pay hike...

Business Maverick

Marikana Demands

EXCLUSIVE: Amcu’s Marikana PGM miners demand pay hikes of up to 40% from Sibanye 

A drone image showing Nkaneng Township, Marikana, North West Province with the backdrop of Sibanye-Stillwater Mine (Lonmin). Photo: Shiraaz Mohamed.

Members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union at Sibanye-Stillwater’s Marikana platinum mine are demanding wage hikes of up to almost 40%, according to a document obtained by Business Maverick. A decade after the murdered Marikana strikers demanded a basic wage of R12,500 a month, the rallying cry is now R20,000 a month. 

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) demands from Marikana were sent on 28 March to Sibanye, which has said it does not plan to officially start wage talks before June — in line with normal timing. But they give a clear indication of what Amcu is targeting at a time when it is united with its former arch-rival, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), in a combined strike at Sibanye’s South African gold operations which began almost two months ago. The united front posed by Amcu and NUM suggests that NUM’s own demands from Sibanye’s platinum group metals (PGM) division will be in a similar vein. 

To wit, the key demands outlined in the document are as follows: 

“The entry-level minimum for all underground workers to be R20,000.00 [Categories 4 – 9]” while for more skilled workers such as artisans the demand is for a “15% increase on the basic rate of pay.” 

When a three-year wage deal was reached late in 2019, the basic pay component at Sibanye for PGM miners was to have been around R14,500 a month, which would be the current wage. So R20,000 would represent an almost 40% increase on that. The demands appear to only be for one year. 

And basic pay is not the whole story. Various allowances and other perks mean that the lowest-paid category of workers in Sibanye’s PGM mines is already earning over R20,000 a month in total. 

In the gold division, the company and the striking unions are not far apart — the demand is a hike of R1,000 a month, while the offer is R850 a month each year over the course of three years — which raises questions over why it is still ongoing. No one at this stage is going to come out of that dispute a winner. 

But it was the striking gold miners from the West Rand and Free State who booed President Cyril Ramaphosa at what was supposed to be a May Day rally on Sunday in the platinum town of Rustenburg. That is a signal of the direction the PGM talks with Sibanye are headed in — toward a potential strike. 

Sibanye’s blunt-mannered CEO Neal Froneman at the moment is a focus of worker wrath, especially in the wake of his R300-million 2021 pay packet.

Meanwhile, other PGM producers such as Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) have already started wage talks. The sector as a whole has been posting record profits on record profits, and this has hardly been lost on the unions. 

“The average 2021 PGM prices were as follows, platinum was $1,092,74/oz, palladium was at  $2,397/oz, rhodium was at $18,074/oz and iridium was at $6,000/oz,” the document outlining Amcu’s wage demands to Sibanye pointedly notes. 

It is not clear at this stage what demands will be delivered to Sibanye’s other PGM operations. The company took control of the Marikana operations when it acquired Lonmin and the mine has been turned around into a profitable asset. One imagines the demands will be in the same range.

The typical miner is estimated to have around eight to 10 dependants and rising unemployment and poverty almost certainly mean that many have more mouths to feed these days at a time when fuel and food prices have been going through the roof. It is certainly a socio-economic recipe for union militancy. 

Amcu’s demands from Marikana also include “the transfer (of) all Amcu members from the current company retirement scheme to Igula Provident Fund” — a fund that has been mired in controversy. DM/BM

 

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  • R12,500, ten years later, with an increase of about 5% a year gets you to R20,000. It’s difficult to scoff at wage demands for workers in such a dangerous environment, particularly when top management is earning such insane amounts. I realise all well performing CEOs get these packets, but then, maybe they shouldn’t.

    • Sibanye has 30 000 mine workers. If the CEO’s (enormous) pay is divided equally between them it will amount to R 10 000 per year. Their wage demand, say an increase of R 8 000 pm on basic plus increased pension (% of basic) plus increased overtime rates, allowances etc. can easily catapult that figure to R10-to-R12 000 additional cost per head, i.e. R 330-mil per month or R 3.96bn per year. But that’s union economics for you. The CEO’s pay certainly highlights massive inequality, but shareholders will certainly reduce it if they feel (s)he doesn’t unlock that level of value. And how many blue-collar workers are earring packages of R30 000 plus? The real problem is this: “the typical miner is estimated to have around eight to 10 dependants and rising unemployment and poverty almost certainly mean that many have more mouths to feed these days at a time when fuel and food prices have been going through the roof.” Currently our mining sector is one of the least attractive in the world and that problem is just getting worse……

  • It’s time for the hard rock miners to get serious about mechanisation . The labour intensive methods are unsustainable ,and dangerous to the workers.

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