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AMCU Gives Lonmin Until June 28 to Decide on Legality of Strike

June 26 (Bloomberg) -- The biggest union at Lonmin Plc has given the world’s third-largest platinum producer until June 28 to decide if a strike by its members would be legal.

If the company disputes the action that “we believe would be lawful and protected, we reserve the right to bring an application, on an urgent basis, to the Labour Court,” Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union President Joseph Mathunjwa said in a letter to Lonmin yesterday and e-mailed to Bloomberg today.

The AMCU has unseated the National Union of Mineworkers as the dominant union at Lonmin in South Africa, which has the largest known reserves of platinum. The company and the AMCU have yet to settle on the organization’s recognition rights, with the union’s members this month threatening to down tools because of this. Rivalry among mine unions has contributed to some of the worst labor violence the nation has witnessed since the end of apartheid in 1994.

The Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration in Johannesburg today started proceedings on what rights the AMCU is entitled to.

The AMCU today asked the CCMA to delay the talks so that a mining-industry stability agreement that’s being brokered by Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe can run its course, Lonmin said in a statement. The company agreed to this and arbitration will now start on July 29, Lonmin said.

“There was no postponement request,” Mathunjwa said by phone. “This arbitration can’t take away our strike.”

The union speaks for more than 70 percent of the lower-skilled workers at the company and also wants to lead negotiations for higher-skilled employees, where it has fewer members.

“AMCU suspects that Lonmin’s speedy request for arbitration is aimed at preempting strike action,” Mathunjwa wrote in the letter that was addressed to Abey Kgotle, the company’s executive manager of human capital.

Lonmin spokeswoman Sue Vey, didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail seeking comment regarding the AMCU’s letter.

To contact the reporter on this story: Paul Burkhardt in Johannesburg at pburkhardt@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: John Viljoen at jviljoen@bloomberg.net

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