Strike looms at Lonmin

By Drum Digital
20 August 2013

A strike over union recognition is looming at Lonmin's platinum mine in Marikana, near Rustenburg in the North West, trade union Solidarity said on Tuesday. "We referred a dispute to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation, and Arbitration (CCMA) on Monday. The CCMA will have 30 days to convene a conciliation meeting. We have called on the commissioner to convene the meeting urgently," general secretary Gideon du Plessis said. "The situation is tense, we want to defuse the tension..." He said union members were not happy that Solidarity lost its recognition when Lonmin signed a recognition agreement with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) last week. Amcu, representing 60 percent of Lonmin's workforce, was recognised as the majority union at the company. The agreement shut down minority unions. In terms of the agreement unions should have 30 percent of the company's workforce as members to be recognised, 45 percent for bargaining rights, and 50 percent to be a majority union. Solidarity represented three percent of the skilled workers. Du Plessis said the agreement signed with Amcu contained a clause allowing minority unions to go on a protected strike to get back their recognition. According to the clause, if a minority union is about to go on a protected strike which will hamper operations, the employer can, in consultation with Amcu, grant such a union organisational and collective bargaining rights.

Totally shutting down minority unions denied workers the right of association. Du Plessis accused Lonmin of breaching the mining sector framework agreement's intent to bring peace and stability to mining areas.

"The framework was signed in July... Lonmin was the mine where the unrest in the mines started; it is an irony that they are the first to breach the framework," he said. Solidarity members had kept the mine going during the unprotected strike last year, during which 44 people were killed. "We feel betrayed. Lonmin has decided to reward unrest and to penalise responsibility." Solidarity was talking to the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the United Association of SA (Uasa) in a bid to bring a joint action against Lonmin. The NUM represented 20 percent of skilled workers at Lonmin. "The three of us are spending the day at the Chamber of Mines. We will make time to meet today." Uasa said last week that Amcu's recognition as the majority union at Lonmin was disappointing. "[We] are disappointed to the extreme by the decision of Lonmin to grantmajority recognition to the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union," spokesman André Venter said. Lonmin spokeswoman Sue Vey said the company was not aware of the pending strike. "We have no knowledge of a strike action." Last August Lonmin workers went on an unprotected strike demanding a minimum R12,500 monthly salary. Thirty-four striking mine workers were killed in Marikana on August 16, 2012, when police fired on them while trying to disperse and disarm them. Ten people, including two police officers and security guards, were killed in the preceding week.

-by Sapa

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