Business

Do competition bodies fuel job losses?

Sibanye-Stillwater to cull more than 5 000 workers

The alleged role of competition authorities in the destruction of jobs in the country came into sharp focus this week after Sibanye-Stillwater announced it will cull more than 5 000 jobs at its recently acquired Lonmin mines.

The merger of Sibanye and Lonmin, which created the world’s biggest platinum producer, became effective in June following months of challenges by Lonmin’s biggest union, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, (Amcu).

Amcu’s national treasurer Jimmy Gama said the competition watchdogs do not have the interest of workers at heart.
“We have opposed the merger of Sibanye and Lonmin as we knew Sibanye would retrench thousands of workers in pursuit of bigger profits,” Gama said.
“Unfortunately, we have competition authorities who stand by idly and allow many families to go to bed hungry in order to attract foreign direct investment at the expense of jobs.”

The competition tribunal approved the multibillion-rand tie-up of the two companies with conditions that included no forced retrenchments for at least six months. The six-month period was supposed to lapse in mid-December.

However, Sibanye announced on Wednesday that 5 270 jobs at its Marikana operation, previously under the ownership of Lonmin, were on the line and that it had already begun consultation processes.

National Union of Mineworkers spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburu said: “The question we are all asking is why is the competition commission and tribunal not intervening when Sibanye announces job cuts just four months after it took over Lonmin’s operations?”

Sibanye’s spokesperson James Wellsted said the six-month moratorium on forced retrenchments imposed by the commission’s Competition
Appeal Court (CAC) will lapse on December 7.

“And we will honour our agreement and not forcibly retrench employees before 7 December. We were not, however, prevented from entering into S189 [retrenchment] consultations, though, which we have initiated,” he said.

Gillian de Gouveia, speaking for the tribunal, said the tribunal and the commission consider the impact of  merger on jobs. “If there is any alleged breach of the tribunal conditions or CAC judgment the matter must be investigated.”

By Kabelo Khumalo