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South Deep strike into third week as mine cuts jobs - City Press

Monday, 19 November 2018

The strike by the National Union of Mineworkers (Num) at the South Deep gold mine aimed at halting retrenchments at the mine is into its third week while the operation is proceeding to cut jobs.

Thulani Mashibini, Num branch secretary at South Deep, said that the union was waiting for “the employer to sober up” and there was no end in sight for the strike.

The Num has been on a protected strike since 5pm on November 2.

However, the mine, which is owned by Gold Fields, was cutting 171 jobs through voluntary severance packages and had been paying out the severance packages for the last week or so, Sven Lunsche, a Gold Fields spokesperson, said.

“We offered voluntary severance packages to these employees – that was taken up by 171 employees who have been paid out. We are currently processing the retrenchment payments to the remaining 911 employees,” he added.

Mashibini said the move by South Deep to pay out severance and retrenchment packages was “legally not correct” amid the strike, which had effectively halted the restructuring and retrenchment process, and the company was exploiting a legal loophole.

However, Lunsche said that Gold Fields was legally entitled to reduce jobs at South Deep via a voluntary severance package after having followed labour law requirements.

Mashibini said that the union and the mine manager met on last Thursday but the mine was refusing to budge from its decision to cut 1102 jobs.

Mashibini said the “strike remained strong”.

On the other hand, Lunsche said that the final number of jobs that the South Deep mine was planning to cut was 1082, made up of 171 positions through voluntary severance packages and 911 positions to be cut via retrenchments.

The Num was willing to strike through to January if need be to drive home its demand for no retrenchments or at least a reduced number of retrenchments, Mashibini said.

Talks between the union and Gold Fields were taking place at the Num national office in Johannesburg, he added.

Lunsche confirmed that talks were ongoing.

On August 14, South Deep announced it was looking to cut up to 1560 jobs as a result of continuing losses.

The job cuts could consist of 1100 permanent employees and 460 contractors, out of a total workforce of more than 5600 people who work at South Deep.

Lunsche said that the South Deep mine had given the contracting companies notice of a reduced scope of the contract and this would result in a 420 reduction in contractor staff “as soon as possible”.

For the 2016 financial year, South Deep incurred losses of more than R109 million a month, according to a notice issued by South Deep in August.

Gold Fields has invested R32 billion, including the acquisition price of R22 billion, since acquiring South Deep.

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