Thousands of jobs on the line at Sibanye Stillwater

Thousands of jobs on the line at Sibanye Stillwater. Picture: File

Thousands of jobs on the line at Sibanye Stillwater. Picture: File

Published Feb 27, 2024


Thousands of jobs are reported to be on the line following the conclusion of a Section 189 process by mining giant, Sibanye Stillwater.

In what seems to be a widespread jobs crisis, Sibanye Stillwater has become yet another mining firm set to retrench thousands of its full-time and contract employees following the conclusion of a section 189 process. It will result in the closure of certain shafts and restructuring of its four shafts at its SA Platinum Group Metals (PGM) operations.

This comes just as Cosatu confirmed on Monday that the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is currently in negotiations with Harmony Gold Mine negotiators who are in a caucus meeting in preparation for the 4th round of wage negotiations scheduled for Tuesday.

The NUM says it demands a 15% three-year wage increase for its members.

The news of the impending job losses was confirmed by the mining giant in a media statement on Sunday, indicating that the process will have an impact on its operations at the Simunye shaft, Kroondal operation, 4Belt (4B) shaft (subject to certain conditions), Marikana operation, Rowland shaft, and Siphumelele shaft, Rustenburg operation, following a previously announced notice.

Other mines currently undertaking Section 189 notices include Anglo American Platinum, Seriti Coal and Siyanda Bakgatla Platinum mines.

“As per the announcement on October 25, 2023, 4 095 workers (3 500 employees and 595 contractors), including support services employees, were potentially affected by the S189 process.

“Through constructive consultations held between the company and affected stakeholders, during which various avoidance measures to mitigate possible retrenchments and minimise job losses at the operations and associated services were considered, the number of possible retrenchments was significantly reduced,“ the mine said.

The mining company has revealed that the restructuring process will result in the closure of certain shafts and the relocation of some employees while those who could not be accommodated will sadly lose their jobs following various failed preventative measures.

The mine has reported that its Simunye shaft, which has already ceased its operation in 2023, has already been closed, while the Rowland and Siphumelele shafts remain in operation and have been repositioned for sustainable levels of production at a lower cost structure.

It further said the 4B shaft will continue to operate conditionally on there being no net losses on a monthly basis. Should this not be sustained, and subject to certain conditions, the shaft will be closed.

Consequently, the mine has reported that of the 4 095 workers (3 500 employees and 595 contractors), including support services employees who were potentially affected while the 4B shaft which currently employs 1 496 employees and 54 contractors has had 467 fewer potentially affected employees due to natural attrition since 1 September 2023, while 351 employees accepted transfers to other shafts at the SA PGM operations to fill vacancies due to natural attrition since the start of the S189 process 1,281 employees were granted voluntary separation or early retirement packages.

The mine reported that 47 employees could not be accommodated through the agreed avoidance measures and were retrenched with 805 contractor employees.

Responding to the impending job crisis, Sibanye Stillwater’s CEO, Neal Froneman, has indicated that the process was not an easy one for the mine and its employees.

“While the decision to close or restructure operations is never taken lightly, the S189 consultation process encouragingly achieved the necessary requirement of addressing loss-making operations and ensuring the sustainability of our SA PGM operations and the benefits and value they bring to multiple stakeholders. We acknowledge and thank all stakeholders for their constructive engagement,” he said.

However, trade unions the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) and NUM recently slammed these restructuring processes as nothing but neo-liberal.

According to “Mining Weekly”, Amcu’s general secretary Jeff Mphahlele said the government negotiated with mining companies to delay their retrenchment processes until after the elections.

“The government has already agreed with the retrenchments and the president merely asked for the mines to delay this until after the national elections. However, the companies are not sticking to that.

“Section 189 was designed for companies to retrench if there is not enough profit, and that is why Amcu has called for the Labour Relations Act to be amended, especially for mines, as minerals are owned by the people, and not by individuals,” said Mphahlele.

The Star