Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa. Picture: PUXLEY MAKGATHO
Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa, right. Picture: PUXLEY MAKGATHO

THE Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) is mobilising its ground troops for a strike at Sibanye Gold if the company fails to yield to the union’s R12,500 wage demand.

This does not bode well for wage negotiations in the platinum sector scheduled for next month. Amcu is the majority union at the mining company in which Sibanye has recently acquired assets.

In 2014, Amcu’s 100,000-strong members went on a crippling five-month strike in the platinum sector, which set back Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin an estimated R24bn in lost revenue, while workers lost out on a projected R10.6bn in unearned wages.

Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa told Business Day the union had sent the company a letter on Wednesday, asking it to respond to the union’s demands "within a few days", failing which Amcu would trigger a 48-hour strike notice.

The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration granted Amcu strike certification.

"We still wanted to engage and they (Sibanye) concluded a wage agreement with a minority union, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), undermining our status.

"That is the kind of attitude we received with many of these companies, they still feel NUM cannot be aborted, it’s still their baby, so they need to nurture it," he said.

The parties have been entangled in a deadlock that has dragged on since October, when AngloGold Ashanti; Harmony Gold; Sibanye, the largest producer; the Chamber of Mines; and other companies concluded multiyear wage agreements with the NUM, Solidarity and the United Association of SA (Uasa).

The NUM, then the majority union in gold, Solidarity and Uasa agreed to wage increases ranging from 6% to 10.4% for each of the three years, starting last July.

However, Amcu held off for its R12,500 demand.

Harmony and AngloGold signed the agreements and implemented the adjustments. Sibanye was the last to sign the deal as it held out for all four trade unions to accept the offer. Amcu broke off the talks and declared a dispute in October.

In November, the union’s members voted "overwhelmingly" in favour of a strike.

Sibanye operations in Carletonville, on Gauteng’s West Rand, and the Free State would be affected by industrial action.

Sibanye Gold spokesman James Wellsted said the company had received Amcu’s letter and would meet with the union.

Mr Wellsted said Amcu wrote that it had received a mandate from the union’s shop stewards to issue the 48-hour strike notice.

"However, they (Amcu) first want to engage with us to find a settlement," he said.

From Sibanye’s perspective, the meeting with Amcu would not be about wages.

"It’s probably related to wages because, in their minds, we are still in dispute about that, but the point is we have implemented the agreement and we can’t change it — we are not going to position to change it now," Mr Wellsted said.

Last year, Amcu’s membership in the gold sector was 25% and the NUM’s 57%, according to Chamber of Mines figures. But, according to Bloomberg News, by December 24 Amcu had 43.4% at Sibanye, while the NUM had 43.1%.

In platinum, Mr Mathunjwa said he would start approaching the workers and collecting demands this month.