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Lonmin breached mining pact - union

Aug 26 2013 19:41 Sapa

(Lucky Nxumalo, City Press)

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Cape Town - Platinum company Lonmin [JSE:LON] has removed a clause from a pact with Amcu which left a gap for minority unions to recapture their recognition, Solidarity claimed on Monday.

General secretary Gideon du Plessis said the clause provided for minority unions to get back their recognition if they went on a protected strike.

Lonmin indicated in a dispute meeting on Friday that the clause was included because of a "technical error".

"[Lonmin indicated] that this clause, as well as a number of others, has been removed from the agreement since its signing on 14 August 2013," Du Plessis said.

"Lonmin also indicated that a revised agreement has since been signed with the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu)."

Du Plessis claimed Lonmin had refused to make a copy of the revised agreement available, and had confirmed that Solidarity's recognition would not be re-instated.

Lonmin spokesperson Sue Vey could not be reached for comment.

Amcu, which represents 60% of Lonmin's workforce, was recognised as the majority union at the company last month. The agreement shut out minority unions.

Solidarity, which represents 3% of the skilled workers, referred a dispute to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).

According to the clause, if a minority union is about to go on a protected strike which will hamper operations, the employer can, in consultation with Amcu, grant such a union organisational and collective bargaining rights.

Amcu treasurer Jimmy Gama said Lonmin originally proposed the clause, but Amcu rejected it and omitted it in documents forwarded to the company.

"Unfortunately, when we were there to sign, the company used the initial document. On that initial agreement, it was still there," he said.

Gama said the union had believed the agreement reflected the ongoing discussion with Lonmin.

"We didn't go through the whole document and we signed it. After they sent it, we checked and saw, no, this agreement still has this sub-clause." he said.

"We told management: 'No, we didn't want this'. They took off that page and corrected that page and we signed it."

Du Plessis said the union launched a six-point plan on Monday to get Lonmin "on the right track" and to force it to re-instate Solidarity.

The union would proceed with the CCMA dispute process, supported by fellow minority union the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM).

"Solidarity members have critical and scarce skills and it would cause major disruption to Lonmin's mining activities should they go on strike," he said.

"The support of NUM as a partner in the strike would increase the impact of the strike because Lonmin could suffer losses of at least R60m per day in production losses."

The union would lodge an official complaint on Tuesday with Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe, who initiated the framework agreement for a sustainable mining industry.

The union believed Lonmin, as a signatory, had breached the agreement, which made provision for the immediate phasing out of the majority union principle.

Du Plessis said the union was in talks with the International Labour Organisation to offer advice on international law and practice.

"A campaign will be conducted in terms of which Lonmin shareholders will be asked to intervene regarding Lonmin's poor judgment as far as the management of labour relations is concerned and the risk it poses for the mining industry and for South Africa," he said.

"An investigation will be launched into Lonmin's possible non-compliance with its social and labour plan, which serves to support the conditions of its mining licence."

Lastly, the union was set to test the constitutionality of the majority principle, in terms of the Labour Relations Act and Lonmin's alleged violation of the right to freedom of association.


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