Source: Erik OLSON / Billingsgazette.
About 760 union workers at Stillwater Mining will receive a 5 percent raise during the next two years under a new agreement with owner Sibanye Gold Ltd., the company announced Monday.
The pay hike for miners represented by the United Steelworkers is another reflection of improved prices for precious metals and an important step for the company’s new South African owners, union and company officials said.
“We got what we could get from them. … It was a fair settlement. Some people think it could be more, and some didn’t think we’d get anything,” said Scott McGinnis, president of the Steelworkers’ local 11-0001.
This latest round of negotiations for workers at Stillwater’s main Nye mine and Columbus was called a “wage reopener,” which allowed both sides to renegotiate only wages in the current deal. Stillwater employees are among the highest hourly wage earners in the state.
All workers are receiving a 2 percent wage increase through January 2018, a 1 percent increase from January 2018 through June 2018 and a 2 percent hike in the final year through June 2019.
The increases are based on a contentious deal signed in February 2016, when miners accepted no pay increases after metals prices fell off a cliff and Stillwater was losing money. Miners had twice rejected that four-year deal, which was backdated to take effect in 2015.
This most recent deal was “overwhelmingly approved” by the union miners, McGinnis said, declining to release specifics.
The union will now renegotiate pay for workers at Stillwater’s other mine, East Boulder near Big Timber, McGinnis said. The deadline is the end of the year, he said.
Officials at Sibanye, which completed its $2.2 billion takeover of Stillwater Mining Co. this spring, said the deal with the union was important to continue operations at their only North American property.
“We note and are encouraged by the sensible and mature manner in which stakeholders have engaged, to agree on a mutually favorable outcome for the Company and employees,” Sibanye CEO Neal Froneman said in a news release.
Average base pay for the Stillwater miners is between $29 and $30 per hour (about $62,000 annually), and tops out around $34 per hour, McGinnis said.
Stillwater officials have stated that adding in performance incentives, health insurance and retirement contributions raises miners’ average compensation to about $126,000 annually.
Stillwater, now a division of Sibanye, is North America’s only platinum and palladium producer. Those materials are used to make jewelry, catalytic converters for automobiles and other products.