South Africa Union Plans Wage Talks With Lonmin and Impala

A South African labor union locked in a battle for dominance at local mines plans to hold separate wage talks with Lonmin Plc and Impala Platinum Holdings Ltd. instead of mediating with the Chamber of Mines industry body.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union plans to hold discussions with the companies on May 13 and 14, Treasurer Jimmy Gama told journalists in Johannesburg.

Competition between the National Union of Mineworkers and the AMCU, which is seeking recognition from companies after increasing its membership, is intensifying before industrywide wage talks. Miners at Lonmin’s Marikana operations refused to go underground in March, demanding the NUM close its office. The AMCU expects a mandate from members within two weeks on whether to negotiate with gold and coal producers through the Chamber.

The union has referred talks on recognition by Lonmin to the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, the company said today in a statement. Lonmin proposed a “multi-union framework” in talks that began in January, it said. The AMCU represents 70 percent of Lonmin’s workers on the so-called category 4-9 job scale, and the NUM 20 percent, it added.

The AMCU, with a total membership of about 120,000 workers, wants a threshold for recognition of 30 percent, while Lonmin is seeking a level of 10 percent, the union’s President Joseph Mathunjwa told reporters. “We cannot allow that,” he said.

The AMCU accounts for more than 50 percent of Impala workers, Bob Gilmour, a spokesman for the company, said in an e-mailed response to questions. While Impala has not had a request to engage with the union in wage negotiations, discussions are taking place, he said.

Impala hasn’t concluded a formal recognition agreement of the AMCU, according to Mathunjwa. “They can delay it as much as they like, it won’t prevent us putting demands on their doorstep.”

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