Lonmin’s Biggest Union Threatens Strike If Talks Fail

The largest labor union at Lonmin Plc (LON), the world’s third-biggest platinum producer, will serve a 48-hour strike notice if an agreement isn’t reached on recognizing it as the majority union.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union will today ask Lonmin management for a meeting on June 10, union Treasurer Jimmy Gama said in a mobile phone interview. If no deal is reached, then AMCU will issue a strike notice and may stop work from June 15, he said.

“The strike is the preferred option,” Gama said. “It’s upon the company to realize that it doesn’t help them to try and protect the minority union at the workplace.”

The AMCU has usurped the National Union of Mineworkers, an ally of the ruling African National Congress, as the majority union in the platinum industry. Lonmin’s 13-shaft Marikana mine, the company’s main operation, was halted by a two-day strike last month after the killing of an AMCU official on May 11. The AMCU wants NUM’s office at the mine to be closed. Violence at the mine in August that erupted from a dispute over pay left at least 46 people dead, including 34 killed by police on a single day.

South Africa’s Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration has scheduled a hearing on June 26 to make a final decision on union recognition at Lonmin. The NUM has until July 16 to regain its majority among the Lonmin workforce or lose its office and associated rights, a Johannesburg labor court has ruled.

Labor Minister Mildred Oliphant, who is leading talks between rival unions, said on SAfm radio that strikes should be the last resort.

The platinum producer employs 27,000 workers and an additional 10,000 contractors. The AMCU represents 70 percent of lower-level workers at Lonmin.

To contact the reporter on this story: Christopher Spillane in Johannesburg at cspillane3@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net

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