Solidarity urges Sibanye to support workers affected by violence during protracted strike

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JOHANNESBURG, April 18 – Labour union Solidarity on Thursday urged mining company Sibanye-Stillwater to provide financial, emotional or other appropriate support to dozens of families whose homes were burnt down during a five-month-long strike accompanied by violence.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) on Wednesday signed a three-year deal with Sibanye following gruelling talks that deadlocked numerous times with several court cases, effectively ending the strike by 15,000 workers at the company’s gold operations which began last November.

In its initial stages, the AMCU strike was characterized by serious violence which resulted in the death of nine people and the burning of more than 60 houses in the Carletonville area in inter-union rivalry and intimidation.

The wage agreement it signed AMCU signed on Wednesday is the same one signed by the National Union of Mineworkers, Solidarity and the United Association of South Africa (Uasa) at the collective bargain last year when they accepted an increase of R750 per year for the period 1 July 2018 to 30 June 2021.

AMCU has committed to abiding by decisions of the court and said no further appeals would be instituted. It also agreed to develop a plan to ensure a safe start and ramp-up of production post-strike.

Sibanye agreed to an ex gratia payment of R4,000 for all employees at its gold operations in the form of cash or a voucher, to alleviate hardships and also offered a cash advance of R5,000 upon request from employees who have gone without salaries for months, which will be repayable over 12 months.

Solidarity general secretary Gideon du Plessis applauded Sibanye for honouring its promise not to undermine the rights and position of the trade unions that signed the wage agreement during the initial negotiations and for the R4,000 ex gratia payment to its members and other non-striking employees for the loss of income suffered during the AMCU strike.

“Although our members have lost more than the said amount in income, it is, at least, also recognition for their commitment to a sustainable company and mining industry that they had shown by working under difficult circumstances during the strike,” du Plessis said.

Du Plessis said unions and Sibanye should immediately start to rebuild relationships and put in place measures to prevent a similar episode in future.

“The focus will now have to shift to the current retrenchment process taking place at the company, and all the unions involved will have to join forces to prevent large-scale job losses,” he said.

– African News Agency (ANA)