June 12 (Bloomberg) -- Lonmin Plc, the world’s third-largest platinum producer, said it will seek a court order to prevent a possible strike by the biggest union at its operations.
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union said earlier it will serve Lonmin a 48-hour strike notice if the company doesn’t agree to its demands. The parties met yesterday and were unable to resolve a deadlock on the provisions of a labor-recognition agreement.
“From our position a strike will be illegal,” spokeswoman Sue Vey said by phone. “We will apply for an interdict to reserve our rights.”
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 at the three-biggest platinum producers 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 disrupt operations at 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.
Delivery of the notice will depend on whether Lonmin agrees to the union’s demands today, AMCU General Secretary Jeff Mphahlele said by phone.
The union wants to negotiate on behalf a bargaining forum where higher-skilled workers are represented and where AMCU has a limited number of members. The NUM and two other unions, Solidarity and UASA, hold recognition agreements for this unit, where each represents more than 20 percent of employees. The AMCU speaks for more than 70 percent of the lower-skilled workers at Lonmin, with negotiations taking place in a separate bargaining forum.
UASA Mining Head Franz Stehring and Solidarity Deputy General Secretary Gideon du Plessis said Lonmin yesterday gave them assurances that the company will honor their recognition pacts.
“Any new agreement with AMCU may not infringe on the existing agreements Lonmin has with us,” Stehring said by phone.
A labor court ruled in May that the NUM has until July 16 to regain its majority among the entire workforce.
Lonmin employs 27,000 staff and a further 10,000 contractors.
South African Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe will meet unions, the Chamber of Mines and government departments in Pretoria on June 14 for inputs on attaining peace in the industry, according to a copy of the agenda for the gathering.
President Jacob Zuma appointed Motlanthe, a former general secretary of the NUM, in May to lead a group to resolve mining unrest sparked by rivalry between his former union and the AMCU.
The restoration of security, law and order, labor relations, housing conditions at mines and policy measures to effect these will be discussed.
Motlanthe last week met with each of the four unions separately as part of his mediation efforts.