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Lonmin Agrees to Recognize AMCU as Largest Union at Mines

Lonmin Plc, a platinum producer in South Africa, agreed to recognize the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union as the largest labor representative at its mines, ending seven months of negotiations.

Lonmin signed an accord with the AMCU that “acknowledges the rights and obligations which accompany that status in South African labor law,” the Johannesburg-based company said today in a statement.

The AMCU has sought formal recognition as the biggest union at Lonmin after its membership surpassed that of the National Union of Mineworkers. The agreement may help ease unrest at the company’s Marikana mine, where union rivalry stoked violence in 2012 and miners have warned of strikes in the absence of a deal.

While toppling the NUM, the accord also ends the recognition enjoyed by minority unions Solidarity and UASA, Abey Kgotle, executive manager of human capital at Lonmin, told reporters in Johannesburg today.

The AMCU speaks for more than 70 percent of lower-skilled workers at the company and has sought to lead negotiations for higher-skilled employees, among whom it has fewer followers. The majority-union status of the NUM lapsed July 16.

“We have different mandates, but we acknowledge that without co-operation we are all losers and that, as leaders, we must find a way to ensure we can move forward together in peace,” AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa said in the statement.

Deal Terms

Under the terms of the agreement, minority unions that meet a 30 percent membership threshold will be afforded basic rights, while unions at 40 percent will get bargaining privileges and the right to appoint shop stewards, Kgotle said. UASA and Solidarity represent 3 percent to 4 percent of Lonmin workers and the NUM about 20 percent, he said.

Members of both the NUM and the AMCU have been killed since May, adding to mine violence that led to at least 44 deaths last year, including 34 protesters killed by police on one day.

Lonmin’s suspension of other unions’ recognition will cause more labor unrest, Solidarity General Secretary Gideon du Plessis said in an e-mailed statement. “Lonmin will now be held permanently hostage to AMCU’s extortion,” Du Plessis said.

UASA will take legal action to prevent its loss of rights, the union’s head of mining, Franz Stehring, said by phone.

Minority unions will be allowed to take part in wage talks due later this year, the AMCU’s Mathunjwa told reporters.

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