Johannesburg - A strike over union recognition was looming at Lonmin’s platinum mine in Marikana, near Rustenburg in the North West, Solidarity said yesterday.
“We referred a dispute to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) on Monday. The CCMA will have 30 days to convene a conciliation meeting. We have called on the commissioner to convene the meeting urgently,” Gideon du Plessis, the general secretary of the trade union, said.
“The situation is tense. We want to defuse the tension.”
He said union members were unhappy that Solidarity had lost its recognition when Lonmin signed a majority recognition agreement with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) last week.
Amcu, representing 60 percent of Lonmin’s workforce, was recognised as the majority union. The agreement shut out minority unions. Unions need to represent 30 percent of the workforce to be recognised, 45 percent to obtain bargaining rights, and 50 percent to be the majority union.
Solidarity represents 3 percent of the workforce, with most members being skilled. Du Plessis said the agreement with Amcu allowed minority unions to hold a protected strike to regain their recognition. If a minority union was about to go on a strike that would hamper operations, the employer could, in consultation with Amcu, grant it organisational and collective bargaining rights.
Shutting down minority unions denied workers the right of association, he added.
Du Plessis accused Lonmin of breaching the intent of the mining sector framework agreement to bring peace and stability to mining areas.
“The framework was signed in July. Lonmin was where the unrest in the mines started; it is an irony that they are the first to breach the framework.”
Solidarity members had kept the mine going during the unprotected strike last year, during which 44 people were killed,” Du Plessis said.
“We feel betrayed. Lonmin has decided to reward unrest and to penalise responsibility.”
Solidarity is talking to the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and Uasa in a bid to bring a joint action against Lonmin. The NUM represents 20 percent of Lonmin workers.
“The three of us are spending the day at the Chamber of Mines. We will make time to meet today.”
Uasa said last week that Amcu’s recognition as the majority union at Lonmin was disappointing.
Lonmin spokeswoman Sue Vey said the company was not aware of the pending strike.
Last August Lonmin workers went on an unprotected strike demanding a minimum salary of R12 500 a month.
Thirty-four striking mineworkers were killed at Marikana on August 16, 2012, when police fired on them while trying to disperse and disarm them. Ten people, including two police officers and security guards, were killed in the preceding week. - Sapa