Shock over first mine death at Sibanye-Stillwater for 2022

Shock over first mine death at Sibanye-Stillwater for 2022 (Photo: Dreamstime.com)

Shock over first mine death at Sibanye-Stillwater for 2022 (Photo: Dreamstime.com)

Solidarity today expressed its shock and condolences over the first mine death for 2022 that took place yesterday. The death was reported by Sibanye-Stillwater at their Driefontein mine. This follows the mine’s already poor mine death record of 2021 during which 18 of their employees died.

Solidarity says it believes that the inspectors from the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy should reconsider closing the entire mine until the mining house can prove that it is safe to work in their mines. According to Solidarity, the fact that the company ended the previous year with a poor mining safety record and already reported the first fatal accident for 2022 in the first month of the year, is reason enough for drastic intervention.

Solidarity is also extremely concerned about peoples’ lives and livelihoods that are threatened due to a slime dam at Sibanye-Stillwater’s Beatrix mine in Welkom’s no. 1 shaft that shows weak spots and whose embankment can break if it is not urgently repaired.

“It is shocking that a company has so little value for the lives and existence of its employees,” says Gideon du Plessis, General Secretary at Solidarity. “Part of the mining house’s problem is their arrogant and aggressive management style, which was the cause of the wage dispute, after almost six months of negotiating, during the current salary negotiations.

The company is also engaged in a misleading media campaign to accuse unions of all kinds of falsehoods regarding their claims, but conceals their own inability to reach settlements like the other mining houses with which constructive negotiations took place in 2021.”

According to Du Plessis, the company prefers to hide behind the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration’s mediators and not to negotiate directly, face-to-face, with trade unions. He is of the opinion that this merely causes the disintegration of relations and that communication between the negotiators is poor, which is not the case at the other mining houses.

“It is time for Sibanye-Stillwater’s leadership to change their corporate culture and especially, to end their hostility with their own employees and the trade unions. At this stage the company is advocating poverty to only offer inflation related increases, despite massive bonuses received by senior management, with one member of management even bragging that he brought a farm with his bonus. At the same time, workers and unions are constantly threatened with retrenchments, and employees are fired for the most insignificant violations. All of this creates a culture where production is pursued at all costs and where employees do not want to withdraw from an unsafe workplace due to the consequences they will have to face.

“We are calling on Sibanye-Stillwater’s top leadership to avoid a catastrophic 2022 by immediately starting constructive negotiations with trade unions on salary increases, and also to reflect seriously on their culture and approach leading to an increase in mining deaths,” Du Plessis ended.

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