Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa s. Picture: REUTERS
Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa s. Picture: REUTERS

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) has urgently sought to appeal against a Labour Court ruling that its secondary strikes at a host of SA’s mines would be unprotected.

The union, which has 14,000 members out in a strike well into its fifth month, called for the secondary strike at the country’s major gold and platinum mines as well as those of vanadium and chrome producers to force Sibanye-Stillwater to bend to its demands at its gold mines.

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 March 15 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 disagreed and in its application for leave to appeal argued that Prinsloo had “erred” in her findings and that in its view a secondary strike was indeed “reasonable in relation to the possible direct or indirect effect” it would have on Sibanye’s gold assets. It also argued it had a constitutional right to strike.

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.

Amcu took strong exception to Prinsloo’s characterisation of the union as a violent one and that there was a good chance of the secondary strikes entailing intimidation and violence.

Prinsloo had also erred in saying that the Mineral Council SA’s membership compact meant other mining companies could not prevail on Sibanye to negotiate an end to the strike with Amcu, the union said.

Amcu called the strike on November 21 to back its demands for higher wages than those settled for by three other unions at Sibanye’s three large gold mines in Gauteng and the Free State. However, with half the workforce still reporting for duty, the company has managed to sit out the strike and not budge from its agreement with the other unions.

Amcu is demanding a R1,000 a month wage increase, while the National Union of Mineworkers, Solidarity and Uasa agreed to R700 a month in the first two years of a three-year deal and R825 a month in the third. It will take Amcu members more than 15 years to recover their lost salaries.

Sibanye CEO Neal Froneman told delegates at last week’s Breakfast Indaba that he would be “fired” by his board and shareholders if the company gave in to Amcu’s demands, not only because of the financial losses incurred in the gold business but also because it would leave Sibanye in a weak position as it headed into wage talks with Amcu and the same three unions in its platinum division.

However, it would appear that the strike could be headed towards closure given the spate of judgments that have gone against Amcu, allowing Sibanye to impose the gold agreement on the union’s members once a court-approved union membership verification process was completed. If Amcu is found to be in the minority compared to the other three unions then the wage deal will be imposed on its members.