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Zuma: Majority unions rule

Sep 13 2012 17:38 Sapa

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Parliament - President Jacob Zuma on Thursday ruled out the participation of unrecognised, small unions in wage negotiations.

Responding to a question in the National Assembly on wage negotiations at Lonmin mine, he told MPs that in a democracy, the majority prevailed.

"We operate within regulated society... Between workers and employers there have been negotiations and agreements, and those agreements must be respected," Zuma said.

"In a democratic situation, it is the majority that prevail. I can't change the rules because you want to make a particular point. You can't then say, smaller unions must then be compared to the bigger unions in the same way."

He was addressing DA parliamentary leader Lindiwe Mazibuko, who had earlier asked if he would consider changes to the labour relations regime, which pegged the union representation threshold at 51 percent.

She said this had led to the situation where Amcu (the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union) was not a recognised union at Lonmin's platinum mine, and therefore excluded from wage negotiations.

This had empowered "the ANC-affiliated National Union of Mineworkers" to establish a monopoly at the mine.

"Does the president believe that smaller unions should be empowered to negotiate on behalf of their members, and not be excluded by big unions like NUM, in a winner-takes-all scenario?"

Would this not avert tension and the possible violence now posing a threat to South Africa's mining sector, Mazibuko asked.

The president said workers who did not join the majority union could not expect the same privileges.

"Workers who do not join the union, can't have the same kind of privileges... You can't have a union of half-a-dozen people [and say] because they've declared it a union, you must have the same rights.

"You have more rights because you're a majority; you have less rights because you're a minority. That's how democracy works," he said, provoking a huge outcry from opposition benches.

Zuma told MPs it was "a question of accepting the rules of democracy, and operating within them".

An unidentified MP responded from the opposition side of the House: "You don't understand democracy!"

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jacob zuma  |  wage negotiations
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