Sibanye Gold job losses could total 10 200 - union

Cape Town - Trade union Solidarity has joined the chorus of those expressing shock and disappointed at the jobs bloodbath expected in the mining industry.

Sibanye Gold announced a restructuring plan on Thursday that could see about 7 400 jobs being cut at all levels as a result of proposed restructuring.

The miner, which employs 58 000 workers in South Africa, announced restructuring plans at its Beatrix West and Cooke operations.

Sibanye had to stop its operation for the month of June due to an illegal strike. Following this, it dismissed 99 employees and placed 407 employees on final warnings.

Solidarity pointed out that, although the official figure for the number of affected workers stands at 7 400, there are also about 2 400 contractors, 365 employees not yet placed as part of an earlier scaling-down process and approximately 50 people in management positions affected by an unrelated process due to the separation between Sibanye’s SA operations and its US interests.

This would bring the total number of affected employees to 10 200.

“When taking into account that every mineworker takes care of about ten dependants and that many more jobs along the line are lost for every full-time miner’s job abolished, the retrenchments will have a major impact on innocent people,” said Solidarity general secretary Gideon du Plessis in a statement.

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Solidarity believes Sibanye has acted in haste.

"This is because of the fact that the trade union recently pointed out to the mining house that some of the mines now affected are following inefficient mining processes resulting in a production bottleneck that prevents the efficient extraction of gold dust,” claimed Du Plessis.

"In recent management reshufflings at some of the shafts that had been profitable in the past, the company replaced competent management teams with inexperienced management teams and that immediately resulted in losses.

Solidarity acknowledged that Sibanye and most of the mines in SA are facing major challenges and that losses are a reality.

Noble concession

“There is a false and artificial tendency at some mining houses to announce huge retrenchment figures while a smaller retrenchment figure is actually envisaged in the hope that when fewer people are later retrenched, it would be seen as a noble concession from the company," said Du Plessis.

“Government must begin to make a positive contribution to the mining sector, creating an environment within which mining can grow. It must stop breaking down the sector,” Du Plessis said.

Illegal mining

Du Plessis said the current wave of retrenchments would have catastrophic social consequences and many unemployed miners will turn to the already uncontrollable illegal mining activities.

“That, together with the rise in the number of the unemployed in communities surrounding mines, will create a social crisis. However, the combination of unemployment and poor local government and lacking service delivery will cause an explosive situation which could lead to major unrest," he said.

"It is in the interest of the country that the major retrenchment processes embarked upon by, among others, Sibanye and AngloGold Ashanti, are averted by trade unions, employers and government as partners.”

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has already bemoaned the fact that 80 000 jobs have been shed in the last five years, and said it would oppose all future retrenchments. The union is disappointed that the government has not done more to prevent the bleeding of jobs.

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But the Chamber of Mines hit back, saying that the mining companies are not NUM's enemy. It said it welcomed better cooperation to save jobs, but that the mining sector is becoming increasingly difficult to operate.

Between 2014 and 2016, the industry made an accumulative net loss of around R50bn, the chamber said. And between 2012 and 2016, the industry lost about 70 000 jobs as it struggled to remain viable.

On Friday the Department of Minerals withdrew plans to impose a moratorium on granting and renewing mining rights and will explore other measures to ensure companies are compliant with the industry charter.

Mining Minister Mosebenzi Zwane received a roasting in the North Gauteng High Court on Friday for ignoring SA's legal process.

This was after the mining minister failed to submit an answering affidavit on the Chamber of Mines' urgent court application to the high court to set aside his moratorium on new mining rights.

Zwane published a new Mining Charter in June. It would require mining assets in SA to be 30% black-owned, up from 26%.
According to the charter, previous deals from which black investors have since sold out are not given full credit. This raised concerns about dilution for existing shareholders. Fin24 earlier reported that the chamber moved to block the charter in a case due to be heard in September.

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