London, England — 18 October 2012 – AngloGold Ashanti, the world’s No.3 bullion producer, could make a decision next week on whether to follow other miners and issue striking workers with an ultimatum to return to work or be sacked.
Reuters reports that South Africa has been swept by a wave of often violent industrial action in the last two months and some 35,000 employees, including contractors, at AngloGold’s South African mines have been striking illegally since September.
Other mining companies have responded to the wildcat action by issuing ultimatums to their employees, but AngloGold boss Mark Cutifani said the company had not yet decided whether to follow suite.
"We shall see how events unfold over the next few days. We’ll make a judgement on that next week," he told Reuters in an interview on the sidelines of a conference in London.
Gold Fields has told the majority of its striking miners that they have until today to return to work or face immediate dismissal.
Cutifani said AngloGold would be watching the situation carefully in the coming days.
He added that while a decision could come next week, the company would not be locked in to any timeframe given the delicate nature of the situation.
“It is very clear to us that the majority of people want to come to work and they’ve been prevented to come to work by people that are causing intimidation, so we’re thinking very carefully about where we go from here,” he said.
The reality, however, is that the mass dismissals are just another tactic – albeit a hard-ball one – in the long standoff between management and workers over pay and conditions. When a deal is finally reached, most will get their jobs back.
Re-hiring thousands of miners may be a logistical nightmare for the likes of Gold Fields, the world’s fourth largest bullion producer, but the bosses know – as do the workers – that the company has few other options if it is to restart production.
AngloGold has maintained a constructive dialogue with most of its employees, Cutifani said, declining to give an update on the company’s full-year production guidance beyond repeating that its weekly output was taking a 32,000oz hit.
Cutifani repeated a warning made by the company earlier in October that a prolonged strike could prompt a reduction of its South African operations earlier than planned.
“We don’t know what we’ll be going back into. If the repair costs to recover those areas are too significant, then we won’t go back and so there will be immediate downsizing.”
Source: Reuters Africa. For more information, click here.