Amcu, govt showdown looms amidst threat to deregister union

The Labour Registrar has issued a notice of its intent to cancel the registration of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), which is headed by Joseph Mathunjwa.

The move is set to result in a showdown between the union and the government on the cusp of the May 8 elections. In 2014, Mathunjwa threatened that blocking it from functioning as a union would force it to become a political party.

The notice — issued in the Government Gazette on Tuesday — said labour registrar Lehlohonolo Daniel Molefe was acting in terms of Section 106 (2B) of the Labour Relations Act to cancel the union’s registration. The reasons provided include that the union has “ceased to function in terms of its constitution” and that the “trade union is not a genuine trade union as envisaged in the Act”.

“All interested parties are hereby invited to make written representations as to why the registration should not be cancelled,” the notice reads.

Amcu — which rose to prominence during the labour unrest which led to the Marikana massacre in 2012 — began as a breakaway from the ANC-aligned National Union of Mineworkers.

The notice of deregistration comes on the cusp of the opening of wage talks in the platinum sector, where Amcu is the major labour player. The union has some 200 000 members mostly in the platinum and coal sectors.

The union has been at loggerheads with the department of labour over whether it complies with legislation to run a trade union since 2014. Requirements by law include having a constitution, audited finances and holding regular elective conferences.

READ MORE: Retirement fund fracas splits Amcu

The Mail & Guardian reported on infighting in the union last year, after Amcu leadership was insistent on the transferring workers’ savings from the Impala Worker Provident Fund to the Igula fund.

The demand to move workers’ retirement savings to the Igula fund was set to place what is reportedly more than R7-billion fully under the control of the union, with allegations that Mathunjwa has installed himself as chairperson of the fund, according to Amcu’s submissions to the Financial Sector Conduct Authority.

Amcu has come under heavy fire in recent weeks over its handling of the protracted strike at Sibanye-Stillwater in which nine people were killed and R1.6-billion in production losses.

READ MORE: Mining industry on alert over violence on the platinum belt

Amcu settled this month for a wage offer the same as that signed by the other three unions at the mind in November last year. Its 14 000 members at the mine downed tools for five months. That strike action resulted in violence and considerable damage to property.

Mathunjwa on Wednesday said he had not seen the notice and would only comment once he does.

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Natasha Marrian
Natasha Marrian
Marrian has built a reputation as an astute political journalist, investigative reporter and commentator. Until recently she led the political team at Business Day where she also produced a widely read column that provided insight into the political spectacle of the week.

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