'Government impartial in mining sector'

Government says workers can join any trade union of their choice.

FILE: Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe during Cabinet Lekgotla held at Sefako Makgatho Presidential Guest House in Pretoria on 5 Feburary 2013. Picture: EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe says the credibility of a government-led mining forum can't be questioned as the state remains neutral in its attempts to stabilise the industry.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union's (Amcu) warned on Thursday that it would again question government's impartiality if its concerns about unions with business links in mines weren't addressed.

The union expressed serious reservations about the support of various government ministers for the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and accused ANC leaders of siding with its affiliate. The NUM is affiliated to the Cosatu Trade Union Federation, which is part of the Tripartite Alliance with the ANC and South African Communist Party.

Motlanthe's spokesperson Thabo Masebe says the claims are baseless.

"There is no basis whatsoever to suggest government is not impartial in the process to stabilise the mining sector. Government recognises the right for workers to join any trade union of their choice."

Amcu President Joseph Mathunjwa said his members strongly believe unions shouldn't get involved in the business of mining.

"There mustn't be any union that has business links [in the industry] we are organising in. There must not be any politicians that have a stake in any mining because we saw what happened in Marikana."

Mathunjunwa made the comments following the union's refusal to sign a framework agreement for a sustainable mining industry on Wednesday.

Amcu was the only union that didn't partake in the signing of the new pact ahead of crucial wage talks this month.

The decision was met with disappointment by other unions and businesses.

The deal was brokered by Motlanthe and agreed upon by other major role players, including the NUM and the Chamber of Mines.

Miningmx writer David McKay said the union's demands could possibly derail the process, as the NUM had interests in the sector.

"I think it's a dig at the NUM and nothing else. It's a potential deal-breaker for this agreement."

The NUM's Frans Baleni claimed Amcu was blackmailing the industry by refusing to sign the agreement.

"It is unfortunate that we are dealing with people who always change the goalpost. Our conclusion is they had no intention of signing."

Amcu's labour federation National Council of Trade Unions (Nactu) has, however, defended its decision to review the latest pact.

"We don't want to sign a document which we have not discussed and mandated by our members" said Nactu President Joseph Maqhekeni.