South Africa 7.8.2017 05:40 pm

Lonmin issues notice to terminate organisational rights to three unions

Lonmin mine workers disembark from a staff bus next to Wonderkop Stadium in North West, 26 June 2015, a day after president  Jacob Zuma delivered Marikana report. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

Lonmin mine workers disembark from a staff bus next to Wonderkop Stadium in North West, 26 June 2015, a day after president Jacob Zuma delivered Marikana report. Picture: Nigel Sibanda

Solidarity has appealed to the company to maintain the recognition of the three unions.

Lonmin has issued notice to terminate limited organisational rights with three trade unions, the company said on Monday.

“We have started a process of looking at the unions that have limited organisational rights whilst their representation levels are well below the thresholds that are required in our current recognition agreement with Amcu [Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union] and in terms of labour laws,” said spokesperson Wendy Tlou.

“As a result of this, we have started engagements and gave notice of our intention to terminate these limited organisational rights with Solidarity, Uasa and NUM [National Union of Mineworkers] who do not meet the threshold requirements referred to above.

“Lonmin continues to recognise the employees’ freedom of association and their right to join any union of their choice. Lonmin is guided by labour laws with regard to allocation of organisational rights to union.”

Trade union Solidarity appealed to Lonmin to maintain the recognition of the three unions.

“Solidarity strongly appeals to Lonmin to maintain the recognition of the three trade unions and to restore their credibility as honest stakeholders, thereby preventing the negative consequences of this decision,” said Solidarity general secretary Gideon du Plessis.

He said in 2012, Lonmin had promised that the recognition of the three minority unions would be protected, despite Amcu’s opposition, even though the three unions had fewer rights than Amcu.

“The company thus committed itself to the principle of pluralism, which means that the undemocratic winner-takes-all principle of recognition was rejected by Lonmin. This winner-takes-all principle played a major role in the in the run-up to the tragic Marikana events in 2012 due to underlying union rivalry that resulted in a tragic bloodbath,” he said.

He said Lonmin probably made the decision because it was under pressure from Amcu to be the only recognised trade union.

“With the notice that Amcu will be the only recognised trade union, Lonmin not only undermines the constitutional principle that its employees have the freedom of association to belong to a union of their choice, but Lonmin once again creates a conflict situation.

“The tension in the workplace caused by this will leave Lonmin’s shareholders worried because this reckless decision by Lonmin’s management will be a major threat to the harmony and stability that currently exist.”

He said Solidarity, Uasa and the NUM, represented the majority of skilled employees at Lonmin and this group of employees would not join Amcu because they were content with their current choice of trade unions and because Amcu focused on the interests of entry-level workers.

“This means that skilled workers are thrown to the wolves and left to their own devices. This will also mean that the most important category of employees will become demotivated and have no loyalty towards Lonmin. The ill-judgement of Lonmin’s management in this regard is perturbing.”

In June, NUM president Thamsanqa Matosa said the union had already established three branches at Lonmin, after it lost members to Amcu in 2012.

“We have three branches in Lonmin. We expect more members, they are coming back  to the union they trust,” he said during the union’s report back rally in Phokeng near Rustenburg.

Amcu become the dominant union in the platinum mines in Rustenburg in August 2012,  following a violent wildcat strike which left 44 people dead. Thirty four mineworkers were killed on August 16 when the police opened fire on them at a koppie in Nkaneng informal settlement. Ten people, including two policemen and two Lonmin security guards, had been killed in the preceding week.

Lonmin employees led by rock drill operators downed tools demanding to be paid a minimum monthly salary of R12,500.

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