Business Maverick

LABOUR PAINS

More than 450 employees at Sibanye’s Kroondal PGM mine on second day of wildcat strike

More than 450 employees at Sibanye’s Kroondal PGM mine on second day of wildcat strike
Illustrative image: Sibanye Stillwater employees affiliated with Amcu and NUM protest at the mine’s stadium in Driefontein, South Africa. 9 May 2022 (Photo: Gallo Images/City Press/Tebogo Letsie)

More than 450 employees at Sibanye-Stillwater’s Kroondal platinum mine in North West embarked on a wildcat strike on Monday, with more than 200 underground at the Kwezi shaft and 250 on surface with downed tools at the K6 shaft. Their grievances centre on an employee share ownership scheme and Sibanye has said the mine workers on strike face possible dismissal.

Sibanye said in a statement late Tuesday – after the SABC and Daily Maverick had both reported on the strike – that it was in talks to bring the impasse to an end.

“At this time, the safety of our employees and contractors remains our top priority, and we will undertake all necessary action to ensure their health and safety while underground. We are currently engaging with all relevant stakeholders to end this illegal action,” Richard Stewart, Sibanye’s Chief Regional Officer, was quoted as saying.

The strike involves an underground protest at the Kwezi shaft that began on Monday morning and one by workers at the K6 shaft.

“Sibanye-Stillwater advises that morning-shift employees (including contractors) at Kwezi shaft (Kroondal West) initiated an illegal sit-in underground on the morning of 3 June 2024, with 211 employees currently remaining underground. At the K6 shaft, the night shift was also disrupted, with approximately 250 people gathering in a central waiting place on surface,” Sibanye said.

“This unfortunate turn of events transpired following the annual payments made to beneficiaries of the Rustenburg and Marikana employee share option schemes (ESOPs) on Friday, 1 June 2024. The striking Kroondal employees are reportedly aggrieved to not have received ESOP payments, despite Kroondal employees not yet qualifying for any ESOP payments.”

Sibanye says that the Kroondal employees will receive ESOP benefits after it completes its acquisition of Anglo American Platinum’s 50% stake in the operation.

The underground protest at Kroondal’s Kwezi shaft involves members of both the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), but Sibanye spokesperson James Wellsted said neither union endorsed the wildcat action and were involved in talks to end it.

The NUM said its members were being held underground against their will — an echo of the violent sit-ins late last year at the Gold One operations on the East Rand. The Gold One disruptions were among a wave of illegal underground protests that hit South Africa’s mining sector late last year.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Gold One fires 445 over hostage dramas while Implats grants reprieve to ‘instigators

“Our members are being held against their will underground, they are not supporting the strike,” NUM spokesman Livhuwani Mammburu told Daily Maverick.

Amcu officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

In a letter to employees dated 3 June obtained by Daily Maverick, the strikers at Kwezi were threatened with possible dismissal.

“The Company respects every person’s right to strike and raise their grievances, however, we have due processes in place that need to be followed and respected … This has left us no option but to take serious disciplinary action against the 213 employees which may include dismissal.”

Labour relations in South Africa’s mining sector in recent years have improved dramatically, with multi-year wage deals inked by several companies with multiple unions without a tool being downed.

But following the spate of similar underground sit-ins late last year, the drama unfolding at Kroondal suggests there are pockets of rank-and-file resentment in the shafts that occasionally bubble to the surface. DM

This is a developing story.

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  • Random Comment says:

    Wildcat strike + people held underground against their will (kidnapping) = dismiss everyone involved summarily (after due process).

    Mining is one possible source of employment and economic growth for SA but we have Gwede in charge; a backlog 0f 3,000 mining rights applications; uncertainty re the mining charter; and employees who behave like criminals…

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