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CAPE TOWN - Trade union Solidarity has launched a scathing attack on Lonmin accusing it of favouring the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) at the expense of other unions in the company.

General secretary Gideon du Plessis yesterday said Lonmin gave Solidarity, the National Union of Mineworkers (Num) and United Association of South Africa (Uasa) notice that limited organisational rights the three enjoyed would be terminated after falling below thresholds.

Du Plessis said the decision could have negative consequences for the company .

He called on Lonmin to reinstate the recognition rights, charging that Solidarity, Uasa and the Num represented the majority of skilled employees at Lonmin and the decision meant that the workers were now left to their own devices.

“The ill-judgment of Lonmin’s management in this regard is perturbing,” Du Plessis said.

Amcu became Lonmin’s majority union three years ago and the company committed to maintaining recognition of Uasa, Num and Solidarity, said Du Plessis, who also blamed the company for backtracking on its promise to keep the limited organisational rights agreement to the three unions.

“The company thus committed itself to the principle of pluralism, which means that the undemocratic winner-takes-all principle of recognition was rejected by Lonmin. This winner-takes-all principle played a major role in the run-up to the tragic Marikana events in 2012.”

In a letter to Solidarity dated on August 2, Lonmin said that Amcu had objected to the continued existence of the limited organisational rights agreement.

“This agreement is also in breach of the recognition agreement between Lonmin and Amcu,” the company said.

Lonmin said it had 24 750 employees occupying category 4 to category 5 Paterson grade at its Marikana operations and that Solidarity had 772 members in these positions.

However, Solidarity said it represented close to 1 100 employees.

“In line with the limited organisational rights agreement, we give you three months to terminate the said limited organisational rights between Lonmin Platinum and Solidarity,” the company said in the letter. “Accordingly, the limited organisational rights agreement will terminate on November 5, and all rights granted in accordance with the said limited rights will cease to exist on that date.”

Lonmin has a history of volatile labour relations after being the scene of the Marikana Massacre in mid-August 2012 in which 34 mineworkers were killed in a police shoot-out amid an illegal strike.

Lonmin spokesperson, Wendy Tlou, confirmed that the company had started a process of looking at the unions with limited organisational rights while their representation levels were well below the thresholds that are required in our current recognition agreement with Amcu and in terms of labour laws.

“As a result of this, we have started engagements and gave notice of our intention to terminate these limited organisational rights with Solidarity, Uasa and NUM who do not meet the threshold requirements referred to above.

Lonmin continues to recognise the employee’s freedom of association and their right to join any union of their choice,” she said.

Livhuwani Mammburu, Num national spokesperson, said the union found it unfair that all the employees could be represented by one union.

Mammburu said the company had long derecognised the Num.