South Africa: AMCU to Strike at Gold and Platinum Mines

Johannesburg — Amcu is to embark on a strike later this week in both the platinum and gold sectors, after issuing employers of both sectors with strike notices on Monday, the union said.

Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) treasurer Jimmy Gama confirmed the strike notices had been issued.

"We have been negotiating with the employers through the CCMA (Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration) for some time," he said.

"After we obtained the CCMA certificates for all the companies, we continued as Amcu in believing in the negotiation process to try and not come to a stage where there is strike action."

The CCMA said on Friday that Amcu had been issued with non-resolution certificates for the platinum sector after negotiations with Lonmin Platinum, Anglo American Platinum and Impala Platinum had deadlocked.

This was after the union had referred separate disputes with the three companies to the commission in October and November last year. Amcu was the dominant union in the platinum sector.

Gama said Amcu had met employers after the strike notices were issued, but the meetings did not have a positive outcome.

"We have consulted our members, and unfortunately this is the next step that is to be taken," he said.

The Chamber of Mines in a statement also confirmed on Monday that Amcu was to embark on strike action in the gold sector.

However, the chamber would go to court as it believed the looming strike was illegal, and would seek damages from the union.

"The gold producers who are members of the Chamber of Mines confirm that they have been served with a notice by Amcu of its intention to strike," spokeswoman Charmane Russell said.

The strikes would take place at Sibanye Gold's Driefontein mine, Harmony Gold's Kusaselethu and Masimong mines, and at all of AngloGold Ashanti's South African operations.

"The strike has been called in respect of the 2013 wage negotiations. Wage negotiations were concluded on September 10, 2013 when a two-year wage agreement was reached with three of the four unions (NUM, Uasa and Solidarity)," said Russell.

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Uasa and Solidarity represented 72 percent of workers in the gold sector, while Amcu represented 17 percent of workers at the time of the negotiations.

"While Amcu participated in the central level negotiations, it refused to accept the agreement," she said.

"The September 2013 agreement was made applicable to all employees who form part of the bargaining unit, irrespective of trade union affiliation. These wages were backdated to July 1, 2013."

Russell said Amcu members had as a result benefited from the outcome of the wage negotiations since then.

"In terms of the 'peace clause' contained in the agreement, there can be no strike action about terms and conditions of employment during the existence of the agreement," she said.

"The issue of conditions of employment has been settled for the duration of the agreement, and no demands may be made during the course of the agreement."

Therefore, any strike action about terms and conditions of employment would be in contravention of the peace clause, and unprotected.

"Any strike action by Amcu against the gold producers covered in the wage agreement will be opposed and a court interdict will be sought to prevent Amcu from embarking upon strike action," Russell said.

"The Chamber of Mines will request that the court rule that the union should be held responsible for any and all damages suffered as a result of strike action."

The chamber's chief negotiator for the gold sector, Elize Strydom, called for circumspection from Amcu in its approach.

"The industry remains in a fragile position, with many mines and shafts making a loss. A strike will further undermine the industry and threaten even more job losses and even some mine closures," she said.

"We appeal to Amcu to act in the best interests of its members, the industry and the country. We further appeal to Amcu and employees -- stay at work and save our industry."

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