Amcu finally unseats NUM

2013-03-03 10:00

Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) has signed a recognition agreement with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).

The agreement affirms the new arrival’s dominance in the platinum-producing heartland of Rustenburg, North West, at the expense of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

The NUM has responded by calling the developments as business attempting to punish the ANC.

Amplats spokesperson Mpumi Sithole told City Press on Friday that Amcu now represents 40% of the mining giant’s entire workforce of just under 60?000 workers.

Amcu is already the majority union at both Impala Platinum (Implats) and Lonmin, South Africa’s second- and third-largest platinum producers, respectively.

Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa said on Friday: “We have full organisational rights and will now be able to implement formal structures and appoint shop stewards at Amplats.”

Sithole didn’t want to disclose the NUM’s current representation at Amplats, but admitted the group was working through the derecognition process contained in its current agreement with the union.

The agreement with Amcu came in terms of Amplats’ employee relations policy adopted in 2000, whereby any union representing at least 40% among the workers of a bargaining unit (operators and supervisors) at the company’s 10 different business divisions, would be granted full organisational and bargaining rights.

The structure of this recognition agreement could soon change, however, as Amplats was one of the parties which have committed last week to a ministerial “framework for peace and stability in the mining industry”, which, among other issues, seeks to create a model for the peaceful

co-existence of labour unions in the sector. Such a framework would necessarily imply lower thresholds for the recognition of unions.

Amcu, which initially bailed out of signing the framework, committed to it on Monday.

Implats and Lonmin are also rewriting their recognition frameworks in favour of a more inclusive model.

According to Franz Stehring, a divisional manager at trade union Uasa, current negotiations between unions and employers are pointing towards a model where any group with 15% representation would be granted organisational rights, while 30% representation would entail full bargaining rights.

“The thinking at Implats and Lonmin is along these lines and I suppose it is a model Amplats would adopt as well,” Stehring said.

NUM spokesperson Lesiba Seshoka said his union remained unconcerned about the loss of its grip in the platinum sector, saying Amcu has built its membership base in an environment of intimidation and that the NUM’s members would eventually return.

Seshoka also accused the employers of siding with Amcu, saying it is part of the business sector’s strategy “to get back at the ANC”.

“Those employers should just pray that we don’t become the majority union again because we will make life very difficult for them.”

Lonmin, meanwhile, announced that 150 of its employees – mostly management positions – could be affected in a restructuring exercise.

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