Amcu sings ahead of court challenge

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Amcu Independent Newspapers. Association of mineworkers and construction union (AMCU) president Joseph Mathunjwa. Picture: Tiro Ramatlhatse.

Johannesburg - Members of Amcu sang and danced outside the Johannesburg Labour Court on Wednesday ahead of a legal challenge to their planned strike at gold mines.

Wearing green T-shirts bearing the slogan “AMCU: entrenching economic freedom for workers”, they sang a song that included the lyrics: “Voetsek i-chamber, fok off”, referring to the Chamber of Mines which is bringing the court challenge.

As the song finished they shouted: “Phansi (down with) the chamber”.

On Monday, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union announced it would strike in both the platinum and gold sectors after issuing employers with strike notices.

The union wanted an entry-level monthly salary of R12,500.

But the chamber said gold producers would go to court as they believed the strike in that sector was illegal, and would seek damages from the union.

Spokeswoman for the gold producers Charmane Russell said a “peace clause” in an agreement signed last year prevented Amcu from striking.

The two-tier wage agreement was concluded on September 10 with three of the four unions in the sector - the National Union of Mineworkers, Uasa and Solidarity.

The three unions represented 72 percent of workers in the gold sector, while Amcu represented 17 percent of workers at the time of the negotiations.

Amcu participated in the central level negotiations but refused to accept the agreement.

“The September 2013 agreement was made applicable to all employees who form part of the bargaining unit, irrespective of trade union affiliation. These wages were backdated to July 1, 2013,” Russell said in a statement on Monday.

Amcu members had benefited from the outcome of the wage talks since then.

“In terms of the 'peace clause' contained in the agreement, there can be no strike action about terms and conditions of employment during the existence of the agreement,” she said.

“The issue of conditions of employment has been settled for the duration of the agreement, and no demands may be made during the course of the agreement.”

She said any strike relating to terms and conditions of employment would be in contravention of the peace clause, and illegal.

“The Chamber of Mines will request that the court rule that the union should be held responsible for any and all damages suffered as a result of strike action,” she said.

The strikes were scheduled to take place from Thursday at Sibanye Gold's Driefontein mine, Harmony Gold's Kusasalethu and Masimong mines, and at all of AngloGold Ashanti's South African operations.

The court room was packed with Amcu members from 9am, but the matter was stood down until later on Wednesday morning. - Sapa



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