COSATU statement on planned Sibanye-Stillwater retrenchments

The Congress of South African Trade Unions is alarmed by the reports that Sibanye-Stillwater is planning to retrench close to 2 000 employees in its various mines. This comes on the back of depressing statistics that show that the unemployment rate in the country is sitting at 44%. These retrenchments are going to destroy workers’ lives and those of their families. 

We simply cannot afford to add anymore to an unemployed workforce of 12 million.  The violence that engulfed KwaZulu-Natal and Gauteng at great cost in lost lives, and R50 billion worth of damages in July 2021, is evidence of the dangers of this reckless behavior by government and the private sector.

The Federation is not shocked though by this announcement by Sibanye-Stillwater because the Mining Indaba of 2017 resolved to replace mineworkers with machines. The mining companies resolved to reduce the 500 000-mining workforce to 95 000 by 2030. Currently the mining sector has already reduced its workforce to just over 400 000.

What is scandalous is that the government continues to give tax incentives to the mining sector and the entire private sector despite many companies using these incentives to mechanize and automate.

Loadshedding is being used as an excuse to justify these retrenchments. Mining companies have made exorbitant profits over the last two years, and they better placed to navigate and deal with effects of loadshedding. 

The Public Investment Corporation which is the largest shareholder in many of these mining companies on behalf of the workers’ whose funds it is entrusted to invest, needs to raise its voice and caution these companies against retrenching workers when alternatives are available.

The CEOs of these companies, including Sibanye-Stillwater, are paid hundreds of millions of Rands each year.  Surely Mr. Froneman can forgo a portion of his R300 million annual package to help save his employees’ who have earned him that money.

We hope that the company will approach the 189-consultation process in good faith and will work with unions to find a solution to avoid job losses. The Federation reiterates its demand for the amendment of section 189 of the LRA so that when employers wish to retrench, employers must negotiate with workers. 

COSATU wants compulsory third-party intervention prior to retrenchments taking place in an event the union and the employer fail to reach consensus during their retrenchment negotiations. Employers should not be allowed to retrench until this process is complete.

Unions and workers must be informed timeously of any financial difficulties being faced by the business and any possible liquidation at the time that it is contemplated or threatened.

The LRA must be amended to make retrenchments a last resort.  Retrenchment payments must be increased from one week to month for each year served to help discourage unnecessary retrenchments and help workers try to survive when they are retrenched.

The Federation agrees with NUM that Sibanye-Stillwater is using retrenchments to settle old scores after workers decided to push back against a wage freeze that was imposed on them by the employer.

Issued by COSATU   

Sizwe Pamla (Cosatu National Spokesperson)
Tel: 011 339 4911
Fax: 011 339 5080
Cell: 060 975 6794