The Mercury

Unions are too strong for anyone’s good


I wish to comment on the May 26 Business Report article, “Thousands reapply for Lonmin jobs”. According to the report, Lonmin is the third-largest platinum producer and 9 000 workers at the Karee section of its Marikana operation began an illegal strike the previous week.

On the Friday of that week, Lonmin was granted a court interdict ordering the strikers to return to work. This was ignored and the following Tuesday Lonmin dismissed the 9 000 workers for participat­ing in an unprotecte­d strike.

It has emerged that the cause of the strike was the National Union of Mineworker­s (NUM) branch leadership at the Lonmin operation being dissolved and both the secretary and chairman suspended for refusing to allow elections after the end of their three-year term.

After a meeting with the NUM regional leadership and the company’s management, a reselectio­n process has begun, whereby the dismissed employees are able to reapply for their jobs, as well as other job seekers who had not previously been employed by Lonmin.

Mxhasi Sitheti, the Rustenburg regional co-ordinator for the NUM, has admitted that the issues that led to the strike had nothing to do with the employer and that the union’s failure to resolve an internal leadership dispute was the sole cause.

In an obvious attempt at some damage control as well as to shift the focus from themselves, Lesiba Seshoka, the NUM’s national spokesman, said: “It can’t be right to have Lonmin retrench workers when the country is faced with the mammoth task of job creation.” Too little too late – they ought to have considered this before engaging in the illegal strike!

This event clearly highlights the highhanded and arrogant attitude of the unions, which have become too powerful and too politicise­d for the good of anyone but themselves.

On the other hand, despite the fact that there will surely be some innocent workers who reluctantl­y got caught up in this illegal strike and who may not be re-employed by Lonmin (there were incidents of intimidati­on requiring police interventi­on), this incident will hopefully send a clear message to others to consider carefully before they down tools.

The attitude of entitlemen­t and lack of work ethic and often unrealisti­c pay demands is widespread and costs the country vast sums of money. The privilege of having a job is not a given.

The unions in our country have become too powerful for their own good – not to mention for the good of the workers and the country at large. COLLEEN ANDERSON GREEN POINT

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