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South Africa: Demonstration and motorway blockade

JOHANNESBURG : Hundreds of striking Sibanye-Stillwater workers blocked a major highway outside Johannesburg on Friday to press their demands for higher wages, and union leaders said they would not back down despite the gold miner's no work, no pay policy.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) have been on strike since March 9, demanding an increase of 1,000 rand (US$68.77) per month over the next three years. Hundreds of workers on Friday chanted slogans and burnt tyres, blocking a major highway. AMCU head Joseph Mathunjwa urged them to continue with the strike. "Going on strike is one of the best decisions you have ever made. This is about the future of your children, do not back down," Mathunjwa told the cheering workers. Solidarity union and the United Association of South Africa (UASA), the other unions which were negotiating with Sibanye, have accepted Sibanye's offer. Under Sibanye's final offer, miners, artisans and officials would receive a 5per cent pay increase each year while "unskilled and semi-skilled" employees would be given an annual increase of 800 rand a month each year between 2022 and 2024. Sibanye has said it would not increase its offer and is implementing a lock-out order against NUM and AMCU members, who will not be paid while on strike, under the terms of South African labour law. A five-month strike by AMCU at Sibanye's gold operations from November 2018 to April 2019 cut the company's South African gold revenue by 19per cent that year. The contribution of Sibanye's South African gold operations to group earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) has declined from about 16per cent during the previous strike, to about 7per cent in 2021.