IT will be a miserable first day back in the office for Lonmin should the Association of Mineworkers & Construction Union (AMCU) succeed tomorrow (April 2) in its bid to have the takeover of the platinum firm by Sibanye-Stillwater blocked.
Lonmin promised last week to undertake a “… holistic review of pay arrangements” in the event the takeover does not proceed. This was after nearly 74% of Lonmin’s shareholders voted against the 2018 remuneration report at the firm’s annual general meeting (AMG) on March 25.
In that scenario, executive pay will be restructured to “… ensure alignment with the group’s evolving strategic priorities”. It also promised to meet with shareholders on how this might be done.
How might it be done?
That’s hard to say, especially on the evidence of the AGM address by chairman Brian Beamish who said that the firm’s recently organised $200m debt facility notwithstanding, Lonmin wouldn’t be in a position to invest in its future without the deal with Sibanye-Stillwater.
The matter comes to a head on April 2 when the Competition Appeal Court hears AMCU’s appeal. Quite what AMCU intends by blocking the transaction is also pretty hard to tell given that it represents over 70% of Lonmin’s employees and would only lose in the event of Lonmin’s demise.
Then again, the challenge of understanding AMCU is becoming an increasingly difficult business – at least seen through the eyes of South Africa’s courts, the Labour Court particularly, which has found against the union repeatedly since the beginning of the year.
In fact, AMCU has lost in court four times this year alone, in every instance in an effort to frustrate the activities of Sibanye-Stillwater, suggesting that AMCU president, Joseph Mathunjwa – whose dispute with Neal Froneman, CEO of Sibanye-Stillwater now seems personal – and is either making bad decisions or listening to very poor legal advice in the matter.
The most damning indictment was in a ruling delivered by the Labour Court judge, Connie Prinsloo. In finding AMCU’s proposed secondary strike at mines throughout SA to be unreasonable (the strike was aimed at forcing Sibanye-Stillwater to accept to its gold wage demands), Judge Prinsloo also made some observations that cut to the heart of AMCU as a labour organisation.
“The conduct of AMCU members certainly tainted its reputation as a trade union that supports peaceful industrial action,” said Judge Prinsloo. “In my view, AMCU’s position that it distances itself from unlawful conduct offers nothing but cold comfort as that position is not visible in AMCU strikes.”
The court couldn’t condone the secondary strike because based on the evidence of AMCU’s most recent industrial action, the societal consequences were hazardous. It might be AMCU’s reputation is proceeding itself in to the courtroom.