Battle lines drawn in court between warring Amcu, NUM

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) intends to continue with its urgent court application on Thursday to set aside the closed-shop agreement between the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and Gold One Modder East mine.

This despite the NUM deciding to terminate the agreement with the mining group.

Speaking to Sunday World on Wednesday, Amcu general secretary Jeff Mphahlele said the union will allow the court to decide on the matter.

On Wednesday, NUM announced the termination of its closed-shop agreement with Gold One mine, stating that it “has consciously and deliberately taken a decision to terminate the close-shop agreement with the mining group in Springs, east of Johannesburg.

Move to prevent violence

It said it took the decision to safeguard jobs and save the lives of innocent workers.

“There is a legitimate concern that if the violent acts continue, some of our members or innocent workers are going to get killed,” the union said.

Mphahlele said the termination by NUM should have happened earlier in the year.

“We welcome it [termination] but it came too late because lives of many people have been destroyed,” said Mphahlele.

“So many [people] are now facing the music for sitting underground [underground hostage allegedly by Amcu members over a week ago].

“The NUM could have avoided all of this by terminating the [closed-shop] agreement earlier. We are not impressed.

“The NUM knew since March this year that the workers want to join Amcu, but they did not terminate the closed-shop agreement.

“What they did was quite opportunistic because we are going to court tomorrow [Thursday]. We are not going to withdraw our court application.

“We will continue as if nothing happened and then the court will decide on the closed-shop agreement.

“I think they decided to terminate and avoid doing the ballot [for workers to decide which union they want to belong to] because they knew if they did the ballot, they will lose and be embarrassed.”

Termination effective from December 14

Gold One mine head of legal Ziyaad Hassam confirmed the termination of the agreement to Sunday World on Wednesday, saying it will be effective from December 14.

“The NUM announced yesterday that they are voluntarily dissolving the closed-shop agreement. They have given us a 30-day notice,” said Hassam.

“The termination will take effect from the middle of December in the event that it is not challenged, or the notice period is not challenged, or Amcu does not bring a challenge to that.

“We are still waiting to hear what the effect of that dissolution by NUM is. Probably that will form part of the arguments in court tomorrow.”

He said after the termination of the agreement, both the NUM and Amcu will be able to “campaign” for majority union rights.

Currently, the agreement allows the NUM to be the only union representing Gold One workers.

NUM acting regional secretary Mlulameli Mweli said the union will challenge Amcu’s court application because they want the labour process at the mine to be “done by the book”.

Mweli said the NUM is not opposed to workers joining Amcu, but said the union wants the process to be legal.

“I am sure it [termination] is a relief to members who have wanted to join Amcu. But we will be challenging them in court,” said Mweli.

“The stop orders and petitions submitted by Amcu are not legitimate. They contain names of community members and not of employees of the mine.

“For this process to be legal, Amcu must submit stop orders which should be verified by the CCMA[ [Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration], and then if the CCMA says they are legitimate, then workers are free to join Amcu. We have no problem with that.”

Mphahlele denied the allegations of forgery.

“What they are saying is frivolous. They are just saying those things to gain sympathy from the public,” he said.

Underground hostage

Two weeks ago, 15 mineworkers held about 540 other miners hostage underground. The miners were held against their will from the evening of October 22 until October 25 when they resurfaced.

Gold One said at the time that miners belonging to Amcu were responsible for the hostage underground.

However, Amcu dismissed the hostage allegations, saying the workers had decided to stage a sit-in.

A total of 42 employees have since been suspended for allegedly being responsible for the hostage.

Hassam said disciplinary hearings of the suspended employees are ongoing, noting that 27 matters have been heard thus far.

He added that full mining operations resumed on Wednesday.

“We sent out communication to all employees yesterday [Tuesday] that work will resume as per normal. The situation at the mine is very calm today,” he said.

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