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South African Court Dismisses Lonmin Union’s Recognition Bid

A South African court dismissed the National Union of Mineworkers’ bid to extend its recognition at Lonmin Plc, the world’s third-largest platinum producer, where a rival labor group has grown to have higher membership.

The Labour Court in Johannesburg ruled that the NUM, whose recognition agreement at Lonmin ends tomorrow, had failed to show that its application was urgent. “It was unlikely to succeed on the merits, if urgency had been established,” Judge Robert la Grange said. NUM would have been aware of the shift in membership as far back as October, he said.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union has unseated the NUM as the dominant 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 favors allowing its employees to be members of the union of their choice.

The NUM claimed in court papers that irregularities were found in about 50 percent of AMCU memberships at Lonmin. La Grange did’t give any verdict on the allegation.

The NUM has referred its claims about the validity of AMCU membership forms to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration in Johannesburg, which will hold a hearing on the question on July 17, Lesiba Seshoka, a spokesman for the union, said after the court ruling.

The NUM is unsure of how it will be allowed to operate at Lonmin after its recognition agreement lapses tomorrow, Seshoka said.

The CCMA will in a separate matter rule on July 29 what recognition rights the AMCU is entitled to at Lonmin. 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.

Lonmin said it hopes that all those involved will be able to work together “peacefully and professionally.”

“The company is committed to ensuring that all employee representatives and unions will be treated fairly, in accordance with the laws governing collective bargaining,” Sue Vey, a spokeswoman for Lonmin, said in an e-mailed reply to questions.

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