ANGLO American Platinum (Amplats) was verifying union representation at its operations after violent clashes between rival unions in which 13 people were injured at its Siphumelele mine near Rustenburg on Monday, the world’s biggest platinum producer said yesterday.
Amplats, which announced last month that it intended to restructure its mines and reduce its workforce by up to 14 000 positions, said yesterday that figures dating back to 2011 showed the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) had a majority membership.
The NUM represented 28 173 predominantly mining employees, Uasa had 4 806 members mainly at supervisor level and the National Union of Metalworkers of SA had 1 172 plant employees, the company said.
“I can confirm that a reconciliation and verification process of union representation within our operations in both Rustenburg and north of the Pilanesberg is currently under way,” company spokesman Mpumi Sithole said.
Following skirmishes between the rival unions and mine security on Monday at the Siphumelele mine, workers embarked on a solidarity strike, which was, however, abandoned yesterday. Workers are expected at work today.
Susan Shabangu, the Minister of Mineral Resources, met with the Chamber of Mines, unions and management at Amplats to investigate ways to put a lid on labour unrest in the platinum sector.
“The meeting sought to canvass immediate action to be taken by organised labour, business and government with the recurrent violence within the platinum sector,” Zingaphi Jakuja, the spokesman for the department, said.
A meeting between labour unions, the Department of Mineral Resources, Department of Labour and the chamber is scheduled today “to discuss areas of co-operation between organised labour and mining companies for a long-term industry solution”.
It was feared that the illegal strike would raise the spectre of violence at Amplats, where labour unions are contending to boost their membership.
The strike followed clashes that ensued after members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) workers’ committee demanded that the NUM vacate its offices and questioned its legitimacy. About 1 000 people besieged a union office.
Loane Sharp, a labour analyst at Prophet Analytics, said violent unrest was becoming endemic in South Africa’s mining and agricultural sectors.
The tensions at Siphumelele come against the backdrop of looming wage negotiations in the platinum and gold sectors.
The Chamber of Mines, unions and platinum producers have yet to reach an agreement on establishing a centralised bargaining system after Amcu walked out of talks last year.
Tension between the NUM and Amcu resulted in the violent clashes at Lonmin’s Marikana mine that claimed 34 lives on August 16 last year.