Amcu needs weeks to get a mandate on treaty

Amcu needs weeks to get a mandate on treaty

THE Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) would take two to three weeks to get a mandate from its members on signing the peace framework in the mining industry, Amcu treasurer Jimmy Gama said yesterday.

The pact, which aims to end violence and illegal strikes and restore investor confidence in the sector, was signed on Wednesday by all industry stakeholders with the exception of Amcu.

If there is a three-week delay, an announcement on the response of Amcu members is likely to take place in the run-up to the first anniversary of the killing of 44 people at Lonmin’s Marikina mine, including 34 who died when police opened fire on strikers on August 16 last year.

Amcu is the majority union at three of South Africa’s biggest platinum mining firms. Amcu has been on a collision course with the National Union of Mineworkers to gain majority representation at Lonmin, Anglo American Platinum and Impala Platinum.

This rivalry has destabilised the industry, which is also facing higher costs, softening prices and weak demand.

Amcu refused to sign the pact, casting a shadow of doubt on whether the process led by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe would succeed and creating further uncertainty for the industry.

Motlanthe, who was tasked by President Jacob Zuma with leading talks between unions and mining companies, insisted on Wednesday that Amcu had agreed to the contents of the document and needed to consult its members.

Amcu had said it needed to consult its members to get a mandate from them before it signed the agreement.

“An informed decision will be made once we have concluded our consultation,” Gama said yesterday.

The pact follows a failed attempt in February, when Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu signed a peace and stability framework with unions and mining companies.

Eventually Amcu “may come to the table, but not until they gain more ground, either in recognition or at least a couple of pay deals to ensure they are taken seriously”, Charles Stanley Securities commodities and mining analyst Kieron Hodgson said yesterday.

Gama said Amcu’s demands across the mining sector would be similar to what it had sought from gold mines. The union has demanded a 100 percent salary increase from gold producers.

Hodgson added that Amcu’s refusal to sign was almost inevitable. “Why would they sign an accord that could effectively stifle the activities and measures that have made them so feared and provided them with the platform to grow membership?”

Amcu had reaped the benefits from violence and instability in the mining sector with a growth of membership, “it cannot be tainted by not signing the peace agreement”, said Chris Jacobs, a conflict resolution expert at OIM.

Jacobs added that Amcu was positioning itself and demonstrating that it was doing the right thing by consulting with its members.

The pact, which was hailed as a breakthrough for the mining industry, sets out a process in which all parties work together to restore stability.

It also paves the way for parties to address the underlying problems in the sector.

All stakeholders, including the government, would enforce the rule of law and uphold peace during strikes.

At the meeting on Wednesday, Amcu renewed its called for the re-instatement of 1 000 employees dismissed from Glencore Xstrata and 539 dismissed from AngloGold Ashanti. The union also demanded that Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande retract his statement about Amcu being a vigilante union and liars.

The pact was signed a week before the beginning of wage negotiations in the gold sector which are expected next Thursday. The negotiations are expected to be challenging.