Harmony: Amcu strike notice received

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

Johannesburg - Mining company Harmony Gold confirmed it had received a strike notice from trader union Amcu on Monday.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) informed the company its members would go on strike at its Kusasalethu and Masimong mines on Thursday, Harmony said in a statement.

“The strike has been called in respect of the 2013 wage negotiations and involves a number of other South African gold producers covered by the industry’s collective bargaining structure.”

Earlier on Monday, Amcu announced it would embark on a strike in both the platinum and gold sectors after issuing employers of both sectors with strike notices.

Amcu treasurer Jimmy Gama confirmed the strike notices had been issued.

“We have been negotiating with the employers through the CCMA (Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration) for some time,” he said.

“After we obtained the CCMA certificates for all the companies, we continued as Amcu in believing in the negotiation process to try and not come to a stage where there is strike action.”

The CCMA said on Friday that Amcu had been issued with non-resolution certificates for the platinum sector, after negotiations with Lonmin Platinum, Anglo American Platinum and Impala Platinum had deadlocked.

This was after the union had referred separate disputes with the three companies to the commission in October and November last year. Amcu was the dominant union in the platinum sector.

Gama said Amcu had met employers after the strike notices were issued, but the meetings did not have a positive outcome.

“We have consulted our members, and unfortunately this is the next step that is to be taken,” he said.

Harmony reiterated the position taken by the Chamber of Mines, which represented Harmony and the other gold producers in negotiations: that the strike was illegal and the chamber would seek damages from the union.

The chamber also confirmed on Monday that Amcu was to embark on strike action in the gold sector.

Chamber spokeswoman Charmaine Russell said in a statement: “The gold producers who are members of the Chamber of Mines confirm that they have been served with a notice by Amcu of its intention to strike.”

The strikes would also occur at Sibanye Gold's Driefontein mine, and all of AngloGold Ashanti's South African operations.

A two-tier wage agreement was concluded on September 10 last year with three of the four unions in the sector, being the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Uasa and Solidarity.

The NUM, Uasa and Solidarity represented 72 percent of workers in the gold sector, while Amcu represented 17 percent of workers at the time of the negotiations.

“While Amcu participated in the central level negotiations, it refused to accept the agreement,” Russell said.

“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 Amcu members had as a result benefited from the outcome of the wage negotiations 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.”

Therefore, any strike action about terms and conditions of employment would be in contravention of the peace clause, and unprotected.

“Any strike action by Amcu against the gold producers covered in the wage agreement will be opposed and a court interdict will be sought to prevent Amcu from embarking upon strike action,” Russell said.

“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.”

Harmony chief executive Graham Briggs said the company believed the agreement it had reached with labour unions was fair to all parties.

“This belief is supported by the fact that all individual employees accepted the increases implemented without rejection,” he said.

“We have made good progress in turning around our operations since the events of 2012 and early 2013, and in ensuring that all employees share in the benefits.”

He appealed to all Amcu members to continue producing safe, profitable ounces of gold. - Sapa


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