Johannesburg - The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) is scrambling to regain lost ground and reassert its relevance in the mining industry, with a number of marches aimed at employers over the next few months.
The union has lost members to the Association of Mining and Construction Union (Amcu), with its presence made irrelevant in the platinum belt in particular.
The NUM, which held a high-level meeting that ended yesterday, has decided that protests will include marches on mining companies where its rival, Amcu, is recognised. “Employers have fallen in love with this yellow union. Our members are persecuted because the employers suddenly found true love,” NUM general secretary Frans Baleni told delegates.
But Baleni’s analysis would appear to turn the situation on the ground in the mining sector on its head. Thousands of workers have abandoned his union to join Amcu, accusing the NUM of being too soft on employers and too close to the state because of its alliance with the ruling party.
Amcu recently ended a crippling five-month strike on the country’s platinum belt in North West and Limpopo, for which the union has taken criticism from mining companies, government ministers, mining analysts, and theANC.
The latter has even accused Amcu of being a “counter-revolutionary” force bent on destabilising the economy and defeating the ruling party. This language against Amcu permeated this week’s meeting, with at least two senior government ministers, including the new Minerals Resources Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi, joining the anti-Amcu bandwagon.
But workable ideas on how to counter the threat of Amcu and reclaim the NUM’s status as the country’s largest union, seemed to be short on the ground, except for the series of marches on companies that “love Amcu”, including Harmony, Amplats, and Lonmin.
It remains to be seen what impact the march will have and what the NUM hopes to achieve. Amcu is certainly notthe darling among employers after the platinum strike.
The union will also ask the Labour Department to deregister Amcu as a trade union because of the violence and killings its members are alleged to be responsible for.
NUM acting president Piet Matosa said the union had to do things differently to gain ground and members should “physically defend comrades” if there was a need.
The NUM is also planning on marching on Eskom and mining company Sibanye Gold. Delegates voted the two as the worst employers in South Africa.