On Tuesday, the Labour Court in Johannesburg granted Reagetswe Mining Group an interdict to stop its workers from participating in a strike spearheaded by the National Union of Metal Workers of SA (Numsa).
At least 4 000 Numsa members employed by three contractor companies, Newrak Mining, Reagetswe Mining Group and Triple M Mining, embarked on a strike on Monday for an indefinite period. These companies provide services to Implats in Rustenburg, North West.
The order means that employees from Reagetswe will not have the right to strike, while employees from the other two contractors can continue because Numsa is not the recognised bargaining agent at the mining company.
Presiding Judge Benita Whitcher said she was inclined to give this interim order so that the matter could be argued at a later date with sufficient time. “What I see as a very compelling point, which prima facie gives the applicant the right to interdict the strike, is the recognition agreement,” she said.
The recognition agreement is a closed shop agreement between Reagetswe Mining Group and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu). This agreement means that employees will be subject to representation by the majority union. The specific union will then have a strong bargaining position with the employer.
READ: Numsa doubles down despite Labour Court granting Implats contractor interdict against strike
Numsa told the court that Reagetswe refused to acknowledge them as a bargaining agent, despite a court order that states that the contractor must first do a verification among its employees to confirm which union represents the majority of its employees.
Amcu has been the dominant union at Implats operations over the years, however, Numsa argued that this had changed.
Numsa spokesperson Phakamile Hlubi-Majola said that they had argued that the closed shop agreement had expired. “In terms of the Labour Relations Act, ballots are supposed to take place every three years to ascertain whether workers are opposed to the closed shop agreement.”
Numsa maintains that the ballots have not taken place and that Amcu is no longer the majority union at the company. “Management of Reagetswe are aware that Numsa represents 1 200 members out of 1 400 workers and they keep signing agreements with Amcu, which is no longer a majority union. They are running away from conducting verification that will confirm Numsa’s majority,” explained Hlubi-Majola.
The union wants to embark on a strike because it feels that contracted workers are being treated unfairly in comparison with permanent workers.
“For example, a rock drill operator (RDO) at Implats earns a minimum of R17 000 per month, and benefits such as medical aid and provident fund. But, an RDO who works for one of these backward contractors will earn not more than R5 000 per month, with no benefits whatsoever.
“It is utterly disgraceful that workers are expected to risk their lives underground for peanuts,” Numsa says.
In granting the interim order to Reagetswe, Whitcher said the agreement was still valid and had not been set aside, but that Tuesday’s hearing was not the forum to challenge its validity.
READ: Another strike looms as mining company is accused of slave labour tendencies
The judge said that the union had put forward a compelling case, which might prevail, but, because the closed shop agreement still held, she was granting the interim order pending arguments at a later date.
Numsa said that it would continue with the strike in relation to the other two mining companies.