UASA puts blame on Section 18 for mine violence

Trade union, UASA, has allocated a significant portion of the blame for union rivalry violence to Section 18 of the Labour Relations Act which deals with recognition of trade unions in the work place.

With the latest trade union rivalry caused violence in Anglo American Platinum mine, UASA said the latest incident was regrettable but was to be expected. “It is yet another example of unintended consequences of Section 18 of the Labour Relations Act, and how this section generates tension and unhealthy energy, often leading to violence, when majority unions are favoured above smaller trade unions”.

18 workers were injured this week when members of the established National Union of Mineworkers and those of the resurgent Association of Mining and Construction Union (AMCU) clashed. This type of union rivalry is listed as one of the key factors which contributed to the Marikana massacre.

UASA noted that it has long warned that that smaller trade unions’ struggle for recognition lay at the core of the Lonmin tragedy. Shortly thereafter UASA called for responsible union leadership to come to the fore when tensions were again rising in mines following the Marikana massacre.

UASA alos pointed out that from a radio interview on Talk Radio 702 yesterday with the presidents of NUM and AMCU it became quite evident that a statement by Cosatu president S’dumo Dlamini at the NUM march in Rustenburg on 9 February 2013, can be linked directly to yesterday’s incident at  Siphumelele mine in the Rustenburg area. Dlamini is said to have referred to AMCU as a “Mickey Mouse union”.

“We believe this may have resulted in the confrontation involving members of the workers’ committee and NUM shop stewards in which nine employees and three security staff were injured and in need of medical attention after platinum security personnel fired rubber bullets at them”.

“The above once again illustrates the intolerance between smaller and larger trade unions over territory”.

UASA addes that it has also cautioned about a looming incident involving BECSA, which is part of blue chip company BHP Billiton. “In this instance, UASA accused BECSA of reckless and irresponsible behaviour inviting labour unrest and strikes after BECSA management and NUM unilaterally and without consultation concluded a new Section 18 LRA agreement setting the threshold for organisational rights at 30%”.

“This agreement immediately excludes UASA and AMCU from recognition. The previous agreement set the threshold for representation at 15%, for which UASA as well as AMCU had fulfilled the requirements. The new agreement left UASA and AMCU out in the cold by BECSA”.

“UASA yesterday addressed a letter to Anglo American, demanding that our members are guaranteed their safety in accordance with Section 21 of the Mines Health and Safety Act. UASA also reiterated that failure to provide a safe working environment for our members within a specified time period, will leave us with no alternative but to withdraw our members from the unsafe working area as recommended and provided for in Section 21 of the Mines Health and Safety Act”.

For its part government said it was saddened and condemns the acts of violence. “Every South African has the right to freedom of association which amongst other things, entitles workers to form and join unions and/or federations of choice in order to promote common interests”.

Workers have common issues that require them to act in unison. Such acts of intolerance and violence can only serve to weaken them when taking up genuine issues against their employers”.

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