Johannesburg, South Africa — 13 September 2013 – Mining companies say they will take a hard line against a second strike in the gold sector and will interdict any move by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) to embark on new industrial action over wages.
BDlive reports that the stage is now set for a new and far messier showdown in the gold sector, with AMCU indicating that its members do not accept the agreement reached between the Chamber and the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) last week. The chamber argues that such a strike would be unprotected.
These developments indicate that the next phase of the dispute over wages could be more protracted than the short and peaceful three-day NUM strike.
Gold producers have stressed from the start that they will not make a separate deal with any union. Employer chief negotiator Elize Strydom said AMCU would not receive any more than the 8% secured by the NUM and insisted the wage agreement would be extended to all employees.
The further implication of this, according to the chamber, is that the dispute was over and any further strikes would be unprotected. “You cannot strike over an agreement that is valid and in existence,” Strydom added.
“The new wage agreement is valid and makes any strike unprotected. To stop a strike we would therefore approach the labour court for an interdict.”
But AMCU has a different interpretation of the Labour Relations Act (LRA) and says that having followed all legal procedures to this point, it still has a right to embark on a legal and protected strike.
AMCU national treasurer Jimmy Gama said that while the chamber was within its rights to extend the agreement to all employees, this “did not mean that AMCU members had accepted the offer. Extending an agreement doesn’t prohibit our right to go on strike. Our rights remain reserved until we sign that agreement,” he added.
An AMCU strike would only affect mines where the union is in the majority. This includes three of the largest and richest gold mines in South Africa — AngloGold Ashanti’s Mponeng, Harmony’s Kusasalethu and Sibanye’s Driefontein. These three mines are in Carletonville.
AMCU and the chamber are due to meet today.
While AMCU said it hoped to engage on the wage dispute, Strydom said that no further negotiations would take place. Employers hoped to persuade AMCU to "collaborate" on elements of the agreement.
For instance, AMCU had demanded that a task team be established to look into the indebtedness of miners and this was captured in the settlement. “When we meet I will say to AMCU: ‘Come on board and work with us’,” she said.
Source: BDlive. For more information, click here.