Lonmin gives in to Amcu at Marikana
After four years of trying, the Association of Mining and Construction Union (Amcu) has finally succeeded in getting minority unions derecognised at Lonmin and stripped of their already limited organisational rights.
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Solidarity and Uasa all received letters last week giving them three months’ notice that they will lose their limited rights.
Practically, this means an end to stop orders providing them with members’ union dues as well as losing their full-time officials and the limited access they have enjoyed to the Marikana mining complex to recruit and meet with members.
There is no clear reason Lonmin has decided to accede to this long-standing Amcu demand now, on the fifth anniversary of the Marikana massacre.
According to Amcu, it is just a belated honouring of its 2013 recognition agreement with the company.
According to Lonmin, the decision followed a recent escalation of Amcu’s demand that the small unions lose their perks.
The company’s recently appointed new executive vice-president for human resources, Khaya Ngcwembe, told City Press that the company only caved in now because the union recently stepped up its complaints and became “very insistent”.
Lonmin’s head of operations, Poena Prinsloo, said that the company had “tried to resist, but had no choice”.
Prinsloo said that the smaller unions could still have members who paid their membership dues directly if they chose.
The three other unions represent about 10% of the workforce, said Prinsloo.
Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa told City Press nothing in particular happened to finally make Lonmin change its mind, apart form the arrival of Ngcwembe.
“We’ve been telling them for all these years. If they have now decided to honour our agreement, that is good for us,” he told City Press.
“We have never been quiet about it,” he said.
In the letter addressed to Solidarity, the reason given is that “Amcu, as the majority trade union, has objected to the continued existence of this limited organisational rights agreement”.
“This agreement is also in breach of the recognition agreement between Lonmin Platinum and Amcu,” continues the letter.
Amcu negotiated a socalled winner-takes-all recognition agreement with Lonmin in 2013, setting a 30% threshold for recognition, which translates into roughly 7 425 members. The three smaller unions together represent about 10% of the Lonmin workforce, according to Prinsloo. That would be around 2 500 workers.
More importantly, the agreement collapsed the traditional split between skilled and unskilled workers into separate bargaining units.
That split allowed small unions such as Solidarity and Uasa to get recognition for representing a share of only the skilled workforce. After the Amcu deal, they effectively needed to increase their membership tenfold to retain recognition.
In 2014, Lonmin signed deals with Solidarity and Uasa giving them some rights, but no role in wage talks. The NUM was also allowed stop-order rights.