Unions to fight Amcu's majority at Lonmin

Amcu signed an agreement with Lonmin last week making it the majority union.

Lonmin and Amcu signed an agreement on August 14, 2013 recognising the trade union as having majority representation at the company. Picture: EWN

JOHANNESBURG - Eyewitness News understands the three minority unions at Lonmin's Marikana mine will attempt to nullify the platinum giant's recognition agreement signed with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) last week.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Solidarity and the United Association of South Africa (Uasa) will meet with the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA)'s arbitrator today in an attempt to nullify the agreement.

Last Wednesday, Amcu and Lonmin agreed on the framework for this year's wage talks and the role Amcu will play going forward.

The mining giant confirmed Amcu now represents 60 percent of its employees and announced the start of the process of derecognising the NUM, Uasa and Solidarity.

However, Lonmin agreed to allow other minority unions to participate in this year's wage talks.

The trade unions have lambasted the move, saying the agreement was signed before the CCMA could hear arguments for minority representation at Lonmin's Marikana mine.

Uasa spokesman Franz Stehring said the union is prepared to take legal action to retain its recognition rights at Lonmin.

Stehring said there is a lot of discontent amongst supervisors and artisans at Lonmin who are prepared to down tools if agreement isn't scrapped.

"If push comes to shove and we've already done a ballot, Uasa will take the [supervisors and artisans] people out on a strike".

The three unions represent the majority of skilled workers at the company and have about 90 days before they are formally derecognised.

TURF WAR

There has been an intense rivalry between the NUM and Amcu since last year, chiefly over majority recognition at Lonmin's mines.

On Friday, the NUM boycotted an event commemorating the one year anniversary of the Marikana killing, claiming it had been "hijacked" from the office of Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe and that it was organised to deliberately marginalise them.

While Amcu President Joseph Mathunjwa expressed disappointment at the move, the NUM's Frans Baleni said the tension between the unions was the reason its leaders decided to boycott the memorial.

"We are not nitpicking; we have lost 21 people. One of the concerns which we have been raising is our safety. There's a song people have been singing called 'How can we kill the NUM and its leaders'."

The NUM's Lesiba Seshoka said the agreement has isolated minority unions at the mine.

"This is a major setback for industrial relations. It actually promotes the idea of Marikana where you have got one union that is operating outside that fuels tensions inside in order to [gain support]."

Seshoka warned the company it should prepare for troubled labour relations in the future.

"It is totally irresponsible for Lonmin to have conceded to a demand like that. We think this marks the beginning of the end for that company."

However, Mathunjwa maintained the signing of the agreement is evidence that it's committed to a sustainable industry.

"Concluding such an agreement doesn't suggest that other minority unions will be left unattended. We as Amcu believe in co-existence and structured processes, as we have demonstrated."

As a result of the rivalry, a number of NUM and Amcu members have been intimidated and killed in the troubled platinum belt in recent months.

In the latest incident, a worker was shot and killed last Monday.

The victim, a female shop steward affiliated to the NUM, was gunned down outside Lonmin's Rowland shaft on Monday.