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Mines fuelling union rivalry – Cosatu

Feb 28 2013 16:35 Sapa
Mining

Violent protests linked to rivalry between the NUM and Amcu have claimed the lives of at least 44 people. (File) (Shutterstock)

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Johannesburg - Three platinum companies are manipulating union membership verification processes to the benefit of Amcu, Cosatu claimed on Thursday.

The central executive committee (CEC) of the Congress of SA Trade Unions condemned in "the strongest terms possible", management of Impala Platinum Holdings [JSE:IMP], Anglo Platinum [JSE:AMS] (Amplats) and Lonmin [JSE:LON] , said Cosatu general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi.

However, Lonmin has dismissed Cosatu's claims. "Lonmin believes in freedom of association. There is no intimidation. We cannot decide who joins what union," said spokesperson Sue Vey.

Implats also rejected the allegations. "I don't know where they come from," said company spokesperson Bob Gilmour.

"[They are] totally unfounded and they've got no merit. Simple as that."

Vavi said management of the three platinum companies were "manipulating the membership verification process and employing the age-old tactic of divide-and-rule" to the benefit the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).

Vavi was briefing reporters in Johannesburg after a Cosatu CEC meeting. He accused the management of the three companies of hypocrisy.

"[They] have sought to meet all demands of Amcu to cancel stop order facilities of the [Cosatu-affiliated] National Union of Mineworkers [NUM]."

Workers who insisted on remaining members of the NUM were threatened with retrenchment.

Vavi said the companies, which are based in Rustenburg, had resolved that, if they were to guarantee peace in their operations, they had to give in to any Amcu demands.

He said the companies confirmed after a Cosatu march in Rustenburg in February that they had been forcing workers to resign from the NUM and join Amcu.

"They designed forms and forced workers to leave NUM, saying if they remain with NUM their safety was not guaranteed, and they will be the first on the line for retrenchment," Vavi said.

Platinum mines in and around Rustenburg have been plagued by labour unrest since August last year.

Violent protests linked to rivalry between the NUM and Amcu have claimed the lives of at least 44 people.

Cosatu president Sdumo Dlamini said it was not opposed to unions seeking space in the workplace.

"They must follow the law. You do not parade workers and force them to join a rival union. That is where the problem is," Dlamini said.

"Management apparently believes this is the only way to stop [the] unprotected strikes that have engulfed the platinum sector. The actions of management constitute the worst forms of union-bashing."

Dlamini said Cosatu's campaign to defend the NUM and the SA Transport and Allied Workers' Union (Satawu) was beginning to bear fruit.

"Thousands of mineworkers who were misled or pressured to resign from the union that have fought for their dignity are returning to the union in droves," he said.

"The membership of Satawu has increased from 160 000 to 193 000 due to the work by the union and the federation."

The figures for the NUM were not available.

Amcu has threatened the presence of the NUM in platinum mines in Rustenburg and is slowly making inroads in the country's gold mines.

Vavi said there were 193 registered unions in South Africa, 117 of which were not affiliated to any federation.

He said there were 45 general unions, and many unions in retail, hospitality, cleaning, security, construction, food, fishing, and transport.

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amplats  |  lonmin  |  cosatu  |  amcu  |  num  |  unions  |  mines
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