Home » Workers Stage Unsanctioned Sit-In at Sibanye’s Kroondal Mine

Workers Stage Unsanctioned Sit-In at Sibanye’s Kroondal Mine

Over 200 Workers Stay Underground, Protesting Non-Payment in Share Schemes

by Ikeoluwa Ogungbangbe

Almost 200 workers at Sibanye-Stillwater’s Kroondal mine have launched an unofficial sit-in, staying underground to further their demands for enrollment in an employee share option scheme (ESOP). On the morning of June 3, a number of contractors as well as workers from the morning shift at the Kwezi shaft unexpectedly joined the sit-in. Later that day, at the K6 shaft, the situation became more explosive as over two hundred members of the night shift congregated at a central waiting area on the surface.

This protest stems from the dissatisfaction of Kroondal mine workers who believe they were left out of the yearly ESOP payouts that were given to recipients at the Rustenburg and Marikana operations last Friday. An international mining and metals processing company called Sibanye-Stillwater, clarified that Kroondal employees are currently not eligible for the ESOP payments. This clarification has not quelled the unrest, as employees at Kroondal are demanding what they see as equitable treatment.

In 2023, a wage agreement was signed at Kroondal which included a provision for management and union representatives from the National Union of Mineworkers and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union to explore the feasibility of extending the Rustenburg ESOP to Kroondal employees. This extension was contingent upon the completion of the Kroondal pool and share agreement (PSA) acquisition by Sibanye Rustenburg Platinum Mines (SRPM), expected to conclude by the end of 2024.

Sibanye has held multiple discussions with organized labor and employees about the proposed ESOP extension. According to the company, all parties had agreed that Kroondal workers would be included as beneficiaries following the PSA transaction’s conclusion. “The striking employees and their union representatives were well informed about the future date of inclusion into the Rustenburg ESOP,” the company stated, highlighting the planned inclusion yet to be realized.

Despite these agreements and ongoing negotiations, the current action by the workers has been declared illegal and unprotected. Richard Stewart, Sibanye Southern Africa’s chief regional officer, expressed disappointment over the breach of agreed procedures. “We fully respect employees’ rights to raise their grievances as set out in agreed policies and procedures. However, the current illegal and unprotected strike is disappointing, and we appeal to all stakeholders, including employees, to follow the established grievance procedures and to refrain from illegal acts,” Stewart remarked.

Amidst this labor dispute, the company has reiterated its commitment to the safety and well-being of all its employees and contractors. “At this time, the safety of our employees and contractors remains our top priority and we will undertake all necessary action to ensure their health and safety while underground,” Stewart added. Sibanye is actively engaging with all relevant stakeholders to resolve the situation and restore normal operations, emphasizing gratitude towards those employees who continue to ensure safe production despite the ongoing tensions.

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