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Lonmin union seeks 35% threshold

Picture: Boxer Ngwenya.

Picture: Boxer Ngwenya.

Published May 31, 2013

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Johannesburg - Unions at Lonmin should have 35 percent of workforce membership to gain rights to organise, according to the AMCU, which is in arbitration with the world’s third-largest platinum producer over the issue.

Other unions “will have to recruit,” Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union President Joseph Mathunjwa said by phone.

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The AMCU has 70 percent of Lonmin’s workers in low-skilled jobs and is the majority union, according to Lonmin.

Lonmin operations have been a battleground between AMCU and the National Union of Mineworkers, which had been the majority union and whose members make up 20 percent of the workforce.

The NUM has until July 16 to regain its majority or lose its office and associated privileges, a labour court ruled, after Lonmin attempted to expedite the process “in the interests of peace and security on the ground,” the company said on May 29.

The AMCU and Lonmin haven’t been able to agree how unions will be recognised under an accord to be drafted acknowledging its majority.

South Africa’s Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration has scheduled a hearing on June 26 to make a final decision.

A union should have 45 percent of representation to participate in bargaining and have shop stewards, and 50 percent plus one should allow a union to negotiate separate issues, Mathunjwa said.

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Lonmin didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

There are two central bargaining forums, the one NUM held the majority in and another consisting of miners, artisans and officials, for which there is a 20 percent threshold for recognition, said Franz Stehring, head of mining at UASA.

The unions Solidarity, NUM and UASA all have enough members to belong to that group.

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“AMCU cannot insist that management derecognise” the forum UASA is represented in, he said.

“It makes life extremely unbearable at the mine, even though you have rights but you can’t fulfill them because of an obstructive party in a different bargaining unit but in the same workplace.” - Bloomberg

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