Sibanye claims verification victory in ongoing strike
Publish date: 10 April 2019
Issue Number: 281
Diary: Legalbrief Workplace
Sibanye-Stillwater could possibly have gained the upper hand in the ongoing hostilities at its goldmines but the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) is digging in its heels, writes Legalbrief. Sibanye-Stillwater will ask the Labour Court to declare a protracted wage strike at its gold mines unprotected after claiming a major victory in a union membership verification process, reports Business Day. Sibanye has announced that it would approach the Labour Court to declare a stoppage by about 14 000 members of Amcu at its three gold mines unprotected after the independent verification process confirmed that Amcu was in the minority at its gold mines. The union, however, challenged the verification process as ‘flawed’. If the court rules the strike unprotected, Sibanye will extend a wage deal signed with three other unions in November to the striking workers, bringing the action to an end. Sibanye CEO Neal Froneman said: ‘Amcu has again challenged the outcome of the verification exercise and we again urge the Amcu leadership to allow due processes to be followed in the interest of a peaceful resolution to this strike.’ The report says Amcu has a lot riding on the outcome of the membership verification process.
Amcu has, however, expressed its dissatisfaction with Sibanye-Stillwater for ‘prematurely’ issuing a media statement regarding the outcome of the labour verification process, reports Mining Weekly. ‘Amcu was not properly involved in the process and, despite various concerns being raised, the flawed results were announced,’ the union stated. The union further pointed out that the verification process had allowed for a dispute resolution clause and that Amcu had declared a dispute. It added that the clause stated that the results of the verification process would only become final once the dispute resolution process was completed.
Amcu had urgently sought to appeal against a Labour Court ruling that its secondary strikes at a host of SA’s mines would be unprotected, reports Business Day. In the strike, which has been marked by numerous court appearances, the other mining companies won a reprieve from the secondary strike when Labour Court judge Connie Prinsloo ruled on 15 March that such an action would be unprotected because its impact on other mining companies would be out of proportion with the existing gold strike and that it would not have a direct impact on Sibanye’s gold mines. Amcu’s lawyers argued that Prinsloo’s reading of the Labour Relations Act was too narrow and her judgment was not supported by the wording of the section of the Act governing secondary strikes.
The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) has applauded the establishment of a crime combating and reaction team by Police Minister Bheki Cele in response to violence which it says has been targeted against its members for not participating in the strike at Sibanye-Stillwater operations. Mining Weekly reports that it said since the start of a strike in November by workers affiliated to Amcu, NUM members had become targets for attacks over the union's signing of a three-year wage agreement with Sibanye.
But Amcu has refuted claims that they are involved in the killings of other miners in the Free State. According to a SABC News report, the NUM accused Amcu of being responsible for the attacks and killings of their members. Five members of NUM have allegedly been killed in the province since the beginning of the strike. Fourteen houses and cars belonging to NUM members have been burnt down. Amcu provincial deputy secretary, Zenzo Xalaba is quoted in the report as saying their members have also been killed.
Amcu leader Joseph Mathunjwa has, meanwhile, called on government as a custodian of mining land to intervene in the current dispute with Sibanye Stillwater's leadership. Eyewitness News reports that Mathunjwa said at a mass meeting at the Driefontein Mine that the ongoing strike would continue indefinitely. Mathunjwa says it’s important to note that Amcu has little power to ensure that the strike is called off.