Johannesburg – A single bargaining council for the entire mining industry, with standardised service conditions and entry-level wages for all mines.
That’s the only thing that will bring the Association of Mining and Construction Union (Amcu) back to the negotiations between the platinum groups and unions.
In addition, union membership at all of the mines must be audited, normality restored and the workers themselves consulted, Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa said at a media conference on Friday.
These negotiations were convened by the interministerial task team on Marikana to bring lasting peace to the platinum sector by reforming its fragmented labour dispensation.
The most likely scheme was to create an informal forum of the biggest platinum groups much like that of the three major gold groups in the Chamber of Mines.
But Amcu wants a statutory bargaining council such as those in other sectors with even lower levels of union membership.
Agreements reached by a council such as this could be extended to all mines by the labour minister, who could impose the same service agreements on the entire mining industry, including the junior groups.
Amcu occupies a strangely powerful position after having almost entirely replaced the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) at Impala Platinum. During the strikes – which were directed at NUM as much as at the mining groups – it apparently made similar gains at Lonmin and Anglo American Platinum.
The mining groups can simply not reach a valid agreement with the other trade unions without it.
Early this month Amcu withdrew from the discussions after only two meetings.
Mathunjwa said at the time that the reason was NUM’s ongoing allegations about Amcu, although they were sitting together around the bargaining table.
NUM and its alliance partner the SACP have accused Amcu of murder and at gatherings recently even started singing songs in which they call him (Mathunjwa) a dog, says Mathunjwa.
Although the negotiations have set the end of this month as the deadline to at least finalise the protocol, facilitator Charles Nupen has now been charged with getting Amcu to return.
The Chamber’s negotiator, Dr Elize Strydom, last week said the facilitator was “doing everything in his power” to get Amcu back to the table.
But Mathunjwa told him they want a bargaining council, not a forum.
The union, which describes one mine manager as four men with a fax machine, is struggling to get formal recognition from the mines despite its strong membership.
Impala has already informed NUM that its membership has dropped from 70% to 13% of its 28 000 workers and that the union has three months to win members back before it can no longer be recognised as the majority union. Amcu will then step into its shoes.
NUM is insisting that the numbers be independently verified.