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JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – JSE- and NYSE-listed Gold Fields says the settlement agreement offered to striking workers will expire at 17:00 on Friday, November 30, and warns that no further “sweetener deals” will be introduced should the deadline lapse.
In a media briefing on Wednesday, CEO Nick Hollandreiterated the company’s statement, issued on Tuesday, that the company has acted in “utmost good faith” in terms of its restructuring and that the planned retrenchment of 1 082 employees and 420 contractors at the South Deep mine was a last resort.
Employees at the mine went on strike on November 2 in protest over the planned retrenchments.
The settlement agreement, which seeks to resolve the strike, proposes the payment of an additional month’s pay to the severance payments on top of the retrenchment packages.
This amounts to an additional R30-million over and above the estimated R180-million spent on the retrenchment packages.
It also sets aside R10-million for portable skills training, which retrenched workers can access.
The agreement further proposes staggering the No Work No Pay salary deductions over a period of four months instead of deducting it in one month.
Holland commented that, “there is no way back . . . these people [have] been retrenched, have left the organisation and have been paid. Its time to look forward and determine how do we look after the people that remain.”
Further, while he and Gold Fields “respect the right to strike”, mine management have cause to believe that the majority of workers would prefer to return to work, with just under 1 900 workers indicating this through SMS.
In response to Mineral Resources Minister Gwede Mantashe’s comments on Monday that the way Gold Fields had handled the process was problematic, Holland stated that, “we believe we have operated in good faith. We understand that the Minister is under pressure to retain and create jobs . . . [but] there is pressure on us to get the operation viable.”
He added that the restructuring process and the number of retrenchments is the minimum that Gold Fields could implement in order to keep South Deep sustainable and to “try to break even in the short term.”
He further noted that the company’s share price movement was indicative of a “combination of many factors” including the movement in the gold price, the response to Gold Fields’ third-quarter results, and a reflection of the uncertainty of the restructuring process.
Holland added that there was a “level of frustration” from shareholders who felt that the restructuring was probably long overdue, while others have “lost belief in the [South Deep] asset”.
However, Holland believes the mine still has a “very significant orebody”.
“It’s not that gold isn’t there . . . there’s a need to get the right discipline into the operation.”
Holland believes the restructuring could be a “turning point” for South Deep, as it is aimed at ensuring the future viability of the operation and safeguarding the remaining 3 500 jobs.