South Africa’s Ruling ANC Draws Battle Lines With AMCU Union
South Africa’s ruling African National Congress has criticized a union that has won members from a labor organization allied to the ANC that used to be the country’s biggest.
“Newly formed mining unions supported by the ultra-leftist groupings” display growing “anarchy” that will result in job losses and slowing expansion, ANC Treasurer-General Zweli Mkhize said yesterday.
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union has displaced the National Union of Mineworkers to speak for the most employees at the world’s three largest platinum producers. The NUM is an affiliate of the Congress of South African Trade Unions, part of the ruling alliance that’s led by the ANC. Union rivalry has led to the deaths of at least 46 workers, cut mine output and helped make the rand the worst performer among emerging-market currencies against the dollar this year.
“The ANC is definitely drawing the battle lines here,” Susan Booysen, a political analyst with Johannesburg’s University of Witwatersrand, said by phone today. “It’s mostly that they are portraying an image of wanting to protect the economy. They are slightly protective of the territory that Cosatu occupies -- that is a very volatile territory at the moment.”
The NUM has lost 37,000 members to the AMCU, NUM General Secretary Frans Baleni said on Johannesburg-based SAfm radio today. The Cosatu affiliate had 310,382 members in September, making it the biggest group in the labor federation, while the National Union of Metalworkers, which is also part of the organization, was second-largest with 291,025, according to a report on the federation’s website.
The NUM is at risk of losing close to 60 percent of its membership, the South African Press Association reported yesterday, citing a union secretariat report.
Today’s figures mean the Numsa has overtaken the NUM as the largest union in Cosatu, which had 2.2 million members in September. The AMCU has 120,000 members, union President Joseph Mathunjwa said on May 9. It represents 41 percent of miners at Anglo American Platinum Ltd. (AMS), the world’s biggest producer of the metal, more than 50 percent at Impala Platinum Ltd. (IMP), the second-largest, and 70 percent of lower-category employees at Lonmin Plc (LMI), the third, according to the companies.
“The NUM is not popular at the moment and they are not realistic, they are losing territory and this is also a contributor to the volatility,” Booysen said.
In the gold and coal industries, the NUM this week asked for wage increases ranging from 10 percent to as much as 61 percent for entry-level miners. Inflation (SACPIYOY) was 5.9 percent in April. Talks will start through the Chamber of Mines in June.
The rand slipped 0.3 percent to 9.5579 per dollar by 11:31 a.m. in Johannesburg, extending the drop this year to 11 percent, the most against the dollar among 24 emerging-market currencies tracked by Bloomberg.
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