Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa. Picture: ROBBIE TSHABALALA
Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa. Picture: ROBBIE TSHABALALA

The Association for Mining and Construction Union (Amcu) is threatening to shut the country's gold, platinum and coal mines as a strike at Sibanye-Stillwater heads into its fourth month.

The union said on Tuesday that it would get its members to down tools at platinum, coal and gold mines where it has recognition agreements. This will include members at AngloGold Ashanti, Harmony, Lonmin and Impala Platinum, Amcu president Joseph Matunjwa told reporters.

The strike declaration comes after Sibanye-Stillwater announced last week that it would begin section 189 processes to retrench as many as 6,670 people as it plans to close unprofitable shafts at its Beatrix and Driefontein gold mines.

Amcu has been on strike at Sibanye's  gold operations on the West Rand and the Free State since November 2018 over wage hikes. However, the company said the restructuring was not linked to the industrial action. In January, the union staged a stayaway at Sibanye’s platinum operations in the Rustenburg area in support of the gold wage strike.

Describing the planned job losses as a “blood bath”, Mathunjwa said that they would implore investors to disinvest from the mining company.  

Although the secondary strike is not likely to have the desired effect in all sectors, with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) in the majority in the coal sector, the platinum sector will be hit hardest. 

It remains unclear which union is the majority in the gold sector. Amcu says it is, but   NUM, Solidarity and Uasa also say they collectively make up the majority.  In 2018, the Labour Court ordered a membership audit to put the matter to rest.

The Minerals Council SA told Business Day on Tuesday that none of the gold companies received notices for the secondary strike. 

The UDM has called on President Cyril Ramaphosa and mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe to intervene in the Sibanye   strike. The party said it expected the president and the minister, both former NUM leaders, to understand the industry's dynamics. 

“In the interests of the country, its economy, the workers, their families and the surrounding communities, it is prudent and urgent for the president and minister Mantashe to act with speed without taking sides or employing political agendas. The time for fancy speeches has run its course and we now look to them to duly perform,” said UDM leader Bantu Holomisa.

SA's platinum producers are due to start 2019 wage negotiations with unions. The existing contracts were signed after Amcu held the longest platinum industry strike in 2014.

Amcu will mobilise communities to participate in a wider strike that is about ordinary citizens not benefiting from the country’s mineral wealth, said Mathunjwa. “The question is, what will happen to the millions of South Africans if we keep quiet?”

With Bloomberg

mahlakoanat@businesslive.co.za