South Africa’s NUM gets exclusive union rights at RBPlat

The NUM represents 80 percent of RBPlat’s workforce of around 7,000 and said workers at the company’s four mines voted overwhelmingly last week in favour of the agreement.

This agreement doesn’t mean NUM and the company can’t disagree

The deal will keep out the hardline Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) at RBPlat, a mid-level producer which made a loss last year due to weak commodities prices.

Investors in South African mining companies have expressed concern about union rivalry and the growing clout of AMCU. It unseated NUM as the largest union in the platinum sector in a bloody turf war, and has frequently called its members out on strikes.

Under the NUM’s “closed shop agreement” with RBPlat, employees who are already members of NUM will not be able to join other unions, while all new staff that wish to join a union will have to join the NUM.

RBPlat signed a wage agreement with NUM in 2014 and was not affected by a record five-month strike in the platinum sector that took Africa’s most advanced economy to the brink of recession and forced other producers to cut jobs and sell mines to survive.

“The parties recognise that sound industrial relations hold benefits for the members of the trade union, the company and all other stakeholders in the business,” the agreement said.

The AMCU has no representation at RBPlat. The United Association of South Africa union represents 15 percent of the rest of the RBPlat workforce, with 5 percent unaffiliated.

NUM General Secretary David Sipunzi told Reuters that if the closed shop agreement at RBPlat was successful, the union could push for it at other mining companies where it is the main union.

“This agreement doesn’t mean NUM and the company can’t disagree, it just means we have to do so in a mature manner,” he said. “If we don’t sign agreements like this our stability as a country can’t be guaranteed.”

After reporting a full-year loss for 2015, RBPlat said it would delay expansion projects. Northam Platinum is the latest miner to face labour unrest. Workers affiliated with NUM and AMCU have stayed away from the company’s Zondereinde mine since last week, demanding security after a killing at the operation.

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