[miningmx.com] -- THE National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) represents
only 13% of the 28,000 workers at Impala Platinum (Implats) in Rustenburg.
As a consequence, NUM has to show within three months why its recognition
agreement with Implats’s Rustenburg section, the world’s largest platinum mine,
should not be terminated, the miner said in a letter to NUM dated October 1. A link to
download the letter is provided at the bottom of the article.
This is the latest chapter in a long struggle by Implats to terminate NUM’s recognition
by the world’s biggest platinum since the group’s workforce went in a seven-week
strike in February and March in a show of unprecedented rebellion against NUM.
The same difficulty will be faced by many other platinum and gold mines, because the
country’s labour legislation makes no provision for the suspension of trade union
Between 80,000 and 100,000 mineworkers are currently on strike at gold and
platinum mines in defiance of the advice and wishes of NUM. Implats, however,
prevented a second impending strike in Rustenburg three weeks ago by negotiating
with the alternative trade union, the Association of Mining & Construction Union
NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka said on Sunday that the letter would only land
Implats “in even bigger trouble”. According to him, it’s a violation of an agreement on
the verification of membership entered into with Implats in July.
Implats director and group HR executive Colin Smith signed the letter last week
Monday. On Tuesday, NUM general secretary Frans Baleni and Mineral Resources
Minister Susan Shabangu accused Implats of being responsible for the wildcat strikes
that were threatening to bring about the collapse of existing bargaining structures,
saying the company was in the wrong to give 18% increases to some workers
categories as part of a process that was done outside recognised trade union
Implats has been trying since May of this year to get NUM and Amcu, the relatively
new mineworkers’ trade union, to agree on a verification process of membership
The group conducted eight different verification processes, involving various
independent institutions, but on every occasion the processes were queried by one or
both of the trade unions.
NUM previously represented more than 70% of the 28,000 workers at this highly
strategic mine. That its representation has fallen so low is the strongest indication yet
that it is losing its hold on the mining industry, or has probably already lost it.
John Brand, senior partner in labour law at Bowman Gilfillan and one of the country’s
top labour lawyers, says that there is nothing illegal about an employer terminating a
recognition agreement with proper notice being given.
“There is nevertheless a serious deficiency in our labour legislation, because there are
no provisions in the law that regulate the recognition of a trade union and the
termination of recognition agreements. This differs from other countries, where the
principle of workplace democracy is enforced.
“This stems from the fact that Cosatu unions were so strong in the 1990s that they
simply forced recognition agreements on to employers. It was therefore not necessary
to regulate the termination of recognition agreements – no one expected Cosatu
unions like NUM to lose their hold in the workplace.”
A copy of the letter Implats sent to NUM is available