Union accuses mine of working with rivals to stop recruitment

Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) members at Harmony Gold’s Free State operations have accused the mine of colluding with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) to prevent Amcu from recruiting members at the populous Tshepong and Phakisa shafts.

Regional organiser Jack Makopo said there was a decree, in existence since 2013 and circulated via email, that imposed a ban on wearing Amcu paraphernalia and the possession of registration forms.

The emails, seen by the Mail & Guardian and circulated by human resources officers such as President Tole and Enoch Moalosi (who is no longer at the mine), warn of a “concern” about Amcu’s recruitment campaign and instruct that: “Any person in possession of such bulk forms should not be allowed in the working areas or hostels … and should these forms be found, they should be confiscated and reported to HR immediately.”

It ends with a plea: “Please ensure effective searches on employees going underground who might possess these forms.”

Although the emails are from 2013, Amcu members who have recently faced disciplinary proceedings, say efforts to stem the union’s growth have resulted in clampdowns on recruitment and wearing of union paraphernalia.

Harassment and discrimination
Koos Sello, an Amcu member whose T-shirt was torn from his chest, said he had opened a case of common assault at the mine. But he was told that the process could take longer than usual because the person who allegedly committed the assault was an NUM shop steward.

Makopo said repeated efforts to get George Phillips, a senior HR manager at the Free State operations, to intervene in the alleged harassments had been met with silence.

Phillips referred the M&G‘s queries to corporate and investor relations executive Marian van der Walt.

“All of our employees are allowed freedom of association to any union of their choice, provided it is done within the guidelines of legislation and internal processes,” she said. “Non-adherence is dealt with in a professional and respectful manner. Allegations made against Enoch [Moalosi] and President [Tole] are of concern to us and we will launch an internal investigation to deal with it.”

Amcu’s national treasurer, Jimmy Gama, said this harassment was systematic and not confined to Harmony’s Free State operations.

Baseless accusations?
He said that at another Harmony mine in Carletonville, Amcu had recently submitted forms but the granting of organisational rights had been delayed.

This was because of the proximity of the April deadline to audit union numbers and measure union representation ahead of the collective bargaining season.

Wage negotiations in the gold sector are expected to begin in May.

Gama said they estimated that in terms of members, Amcu was “neck and neck” with NUM in the gold sector, if not slightly ahead. Other estimates have put Amcu’s membership figures closer to 30%.

Acting NUM spokesperson Livhuwani Mammburuu said it was the first time he had heard the allegations of collusion and harassment at Harmony’s Free State operations. “I’m not sure why Amcu would be coming with these allegations now when they have ascended to majority status at Harmony’s Kusasalethu mine, for example.”

Independent labour analyst Albert de Beer said accusations of collusion at this stage would not make a material difference to the negotiations because there had been an element of maturity between how both sides have been handling recent conflicts. “If you look at the Sibanye Beatrix matter last month, that could have been a bigger conflict but both parties stepped in to avert a bigger disaster.”

Nine people were injured at South Africa’s largest gold producer after violent clashes broke out, apparently about the granting of minority recognition rights to Amcu at the mine.

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Kwanele Sosibo
Kwanele Sosibo
Kwanele Sosibo is the editor of Friday, the arts and culture section of the Mail and Guardian.

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