Over 4 000 jobs on the line as Sibanye sharpens the axe

The Sibanye-Stillwater Group, which is quickly earning a bad reputation for repeatedly laying off employees, has declared its intention to retrench more than 4 000 employees.

This comes after the company retrenched over 2 493 workers between March 2023 and February this year.

The announcement has resulted in a labour union at South Africa’s largest mining company accusing the diversified miner of implementing retrenchments in a barbaric manner.

Sibanye, which has gold and platinum group metals mining operations in South Africa, made the announcement on Thursday.

This comes after the mining firm revealed in February that it was retrenching 852 full-time employees and contractors at its platinum group metals mines.

Sibanye prepares for consultations

In December, Sibanye concluded a retrenchment process that saw the company’s gold operations, Kloof 4, in Westonaria, southwest of Johannesburg, part ways with 1 473 workers.

In March 2023, it retrenched 168 employees at its Beatrix 4 shaft and Kloof 1 plant.

On Thursday, the company said it would enter into consultations in terms of Section 189A of the Labour Relations Act, 66 of 1995 (S189) with organised labour and other representatives of the affected non-unionised employees regarding the proposed restructuring at its gold operations and its southern Africa region services functions.

“Further to previous restructuring concluded during 2023 and quarter one of 2024, the ongoing group business review has identified a need to address losses at the Beatrix 1 shaft, which has been unable to deliver planned production, and the Kloof 2 plant, which, after the closure of the Kloof 4 shaft during 2023, has had insufficient processing material available to cover overheads,” it said in a statement.

“The deferral of capital expenditure at the Burnstone project, announced in February 2024, also requires restructuring aligned with the reduction in planned capital activities.”

Realignment of regional services

Sibanye emphasised that the reduction in the operational footprint in the South Africa region, due to the recent restructuring and closure of loss-making shafts and proposed future restructuring or closures, has resulted in the capacity of the direct and shared services functions for the South Africa region and operations being surplus to current and future requirements.

“As a result, the company proposes a realignment of the regional services, shared services, and direct services structures to align with the requirements of the reduced operational footprint.

“This will reduce direct operational service costs and regional overhead costs that are allocated to the operations, thereby contributing to the sustainability of the SA region.” Sibanye said.

It further explained that the proposed restructuring could affect 3 107 employees and 915 contractors.

“Management therefore considers it prudent to commence with the S189 consultations process on the potential restructuring of the identified operations and services, and has invited affected employees and/or their representatives to engage in consultations as required by Section 189A of the Labour Relations Act.

“The objective of the consultation process is to, among others, consider alternative measures to minimise job losses while ensuring the long-term sustainability of the SA operations.

“Various alternatives have already been considered by management and organised labour representatives in Future Forum meetings.

“All reasonable options that may be suggested by affected employees through their representatives to address the losses during the Section 189A consultation process will be welcomed and duly considered.”

Union vows to fight retrenchments

Chief executive Neal Froneman stated: “We continue to act prudently to protect the balance sheet and ensure the sustainability of the group.

“We are committed to constructively engaging with affected employees and through their representatives to minimise job losses.”

The National Union of Mineworkers spokesperson, Livhuwani Mammburu, said: “It is shocking. We view this latest retrenchment as unacceptable and part of capitalist barbarism at its best.

“They don’t care about mineworkers in this country. This company must just pack its bags and go to mine in the US. They have no interest in mining in South Africa.”

Mammburu added that the union would fight the latest round of retrenchments.

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