Amcu declared official majority union at Lonmin

Joseph Mathunjwa, president of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union. (Reuters)

Joseph Mathunjwa, president of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union. (Reuters)

The recognition of all other unions at the platinum mine has been revoked.

An employee recognition agreement which acknowledges The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) as the majority union, as it represents more than 60% of the workforce, was signed on Wednesday –  just two days before one year anniversary of the Marikana massacre at Lonmin’s Rustenburg mine.

The recognition agreement will see Amcu becoming the majority union over the National Union of Mineworkers which has held a dominant position for years and began to lose members steadily before the Marikana massacre, and rapidly thereafter. The loss of membership has seen the NUM slip from its top slot in Cosatu.

The new recognition agreement, which will only be in effect in 2014’s wage negotiations, sees not only the recognition of the NUM (which now represents 20% of the workforce) revoked, but also that of smaller unions Solidarity and Uasa, which have typically represented skilled workers in the mining industry and who jointly only represent about 4% of the total Lonmin workforce.

The agreement will require a 30% representation to gain basic rights, such as access and deductions. A 40% membership would entitle a union to have full-time stop stewards on the premises and bargaining rights, while a representation of 50% plus one defines a majority union.

'Principles of coexistence'
Abey Kgotle, Lonmin’s executive manager of human capital, said the principles of coexistence were enshrined in the agreement with Amcu.

But Solidarity condemned the terms of the agreement: "The undemocratic principle of majority recognition was one of the main causes that led to the events at Marikana and to other violent labour unrest.
The suspension of the recognition of Solidarity and other minority trade unions by Lonmin again creates a climate for continued labour unrest and deprives members of the constitutional right to freedom of association."

Solidarity said it was appealing to Lonmin to reconsider its ill-considered decision, "especially in light of the selfless support given to the company by the trade union and its members to restore labour stability in the workplace after the Marikana events".

"Should Lonmin not restore Solidarity’s recognition in the workplace, it would be clear that the company is sacrificing sound labour relations in favour of the pressure being brought to bear on it by majority union, Amcu. Amcu is thus being rewarded for its extortion that Lonmin yielded to, and Lonmin will now be held."

Negotiations
Lonmin chief executive Ben Magara said that after "intense negotiations" he was delighted to announce the signing of the recognition agreement. "It is excellent news for Lonmin, for our employees and for all our stakeholders. I would like to recognise the efforts of both our teams, Amcu and Lonmin."

Joseph Mathunjwa, president of Amcu, said: "We have different mandates, but we acknowledge that without co-operation we are all losers and that, as leaders, we must find a way to ensure we can move forward together in peace and stability. In particular I would like to thank the membership of Amcu and their teams, for their patience as we sought to conclude the agreement."

Both parties noted it was significant that their agreement was being signed in the week of the commemoration of the tragic events of last year.

"This shows that the victims did not die in vain and we pledge to continue with their fight for a living wage," Mathunjwa said.

Lisa Steyn

Lisa Steyn

Lisa Steyn is a business reporter at the Mail & Guardian. She holds a master's degree in journalism and media studies from Wits University. Her areas of interest range from energy and mining to financial services and telecommunication. When she is not poring over annual reports, Lisa can usually be found pottering about the kitchen. Read more from Lisa Steyn

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