Mining accord ‘a PR exercise’

2013-07-07 10:00

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Amcu backs out of agreement, claiming several of its key concerns were ignored

The latest framework agreement in the mining industry “is just a PR exercise”, says Association of Mining and Construction Union (Amcu) president Joseph Mathunjwa.

His union was lambasted by rivals and analysts this week for refusing to sign Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe’s new “framework agreement for a sustainable mining industry” – pulling out at the signing ceremony in Pretoria on Wednesday. Amcu’s delegation said they first needed “a new mandate” from their members after their key concerns failed to make it into the final agreement.

The drama was an almost exact repeat of what happened during the signing of the previous high-level mining agreement, the Peace Accord, in February this year. “Stability requires more than Amcu signing agreements,” Mathunjwa told City Press on Friday.

“Politicians need to look at themselves. You can’t just go and say it is Amcu being irresponsible. You remember the Satawu strike where they killed over 50 people? No one called for a framework agreement then,” he said, referring to the security guard strike in 2006 during which several strike breakers were murdered, usually by being thrown off trains.

“The approach of government is very questionable. To blame us for everything from the rand and the economy to the instability is far-fetched,” said Mathunjwa.

He denied allegations by other unions that Amcu’s delegation tried to introduce new issues to the framework this week.

“If they want to be our spokespersons, they can send their CVs,” said Mathunjwa.

“Like all the unions, we had a bilateral meeting with the deputy president to raise the issues we thought are important for stability. It’s quite clear from our side. We submitted a document, but some issues that were key for us were not incorporated,” he said, referring to the final agreement the presidency released despite Amcu not signing it.

“We said we cannot sign that. We have to go back and tell our members and ask them for a fresh mandate,” he said.

Amcu has the right to legally call a strike at Lonmin over the ongoing dispute over its recognition agreement, but agreed to hold off on any industrial action until Motlanthe’s talks were over.

Mathunjwa says they have similar certificates of nonresolution – issued by the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration – at AngloGold Ashanti and Harmony. These remain its most immediate bargaining chip and the real practical test of Motlanthe’s agreement.

It commits mines and unions to “fast-track resolution of disputes over membership status, verification of membership figures and recognition agreements”. If there is no immediate action on that front, large strikes at these companies are almost inevitable.

By far the most radical proposal Amcu wanted included in the agreement is an admission that the tripartite alliance, particularly union federation Cosatu’s ties to the ANC, creates a fundamental conflict of interest on mines.

Amcu specifically demanded a commitment that unions will have no connections to businesses tied to mining.

“There are service providers, for instance medical schemes, supporting the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM)” he said.

More ambitiously, Amcu demanded a commitment concerning the “conflict of interest” when ANC members own mines where the NUM, a Cosatu affiliate, organises workers.

“They are part of the tripartite alliance?.?.?.?those black economic empowerment deals undermine the workers,” Mathunjwa claimed, referring specifically to ANC deputy president Cyril Ramaphosa’s leadership at Lonmin. Mathunjwa admits that barring politicians from mining investments is unlikely, but insists it is a core issue that needs to be addressed.

“It might not be today or tomorrow, but we have to tackle it. If we want to talk about stability, all these things need to be addressed. We are saying no politicians and they wanted to put it in a soft way.”

The only real changes between the first draft of the agreement from June 14 and the version released this week is the inclusion of a commitment that disputes between unions and mines will only involve the actual parties to the dispute.

Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu and Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande have made fierce pro-NUM speeches, describing Amcu as an enemy of the alliance.

Amcu’s other major unheeded demand in the talks has been around what it considers the selective firing of its members on spurious grounds.

“We listed Glencore Xstrata’s firing of our members for protesting against racism,” said Mathunjwa.

Amcu also has a complaint against AngloGold Ashanti for firing 539 of its members.

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