Lonmin Faces Strike by Biggest Union If Demands Not Met by Today

Lonmin Plc (LMI) will be served with a strike notice by the union that represents the most workers at its operations if the world’s third-biggest platinum producer doesn’t agree to the labor organization’s demands today.

“We are still waiting for the final response from Lonmin,” Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union General Secretary Jeff Mphahlele said by phone. The 48-hour strike notice “will depend on the response we get.”

The union wants organizational privileges at the Marikana mine near Rustenburg, 116 kilometers (72 miles) northwest of Johannesburg, at the expense of the National Union of Mineworkers, an ally of the ruling African National Congress. The AMCU has unseated the NUM as the biggest union in the platinum industry in South Africa, which has the largest known reserves of the metal.

The change isn’t yet formally recognized by Lonmin, which says it favors multi-union representation. A strike would mean a return of disruption to Lonmin’s 13-shaft Marikana mine, the site of violent protests in which at least 44 people died last year, slowing plans to raise output and restore profitability.

“Lonmin has not received formal notice of strike from the AMCU,” spokeswoman Sue Vey said in a text message. “The company will act in the interests of employees to prevent a strike. We are however confident that an agreement can be reached through continued negotiations.”

Any work stoppage would be illegal after a Johannesburg labor court ruled that the NUM has until July 16 to regain its majority among the workforce, Lonmin Executive Vice President of Mining Mark Munroe said on June 6.

Worker Deaths

Three Lonmin workers, including one from each union, have been killed in the past month. Work at the operation was halted for two days in May after an AMCU official was shot.

The AMCU has said any Lonmin union retaining 35 percent membership among the workforce should gain organizational privileges. A 45 percent threshold should be met for wage-bargaining rights and 50 percent plus one to negotiate on other issues on behalf of all workers, AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa said May 31.

Lonmin agreed to the recognition thresholds proposed by AMCU for lower-skilled workers, while keeping intact the existing 20 percent membership requirement for categories including officials and artisans, the company said in a statement on June 6.

Lonmin employs 27,000 staff and a further 10,000 contractors. The AMCU represents 70 percent of lower-skilled workers at the company.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kamlesh Bhuckory in Johannesburg at kbhuckory@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Simon Thiel at sthiel1@bloomberg.net

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