Amcu threatens mass strike action over possible deregistration
'The department of labour’s decision makes it clear that the state wants a union that will protect its interests and those of capitalists.'
Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa. Picture: ANA
Unfazed by the prospect of his union being deregistered, Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) president Jacob Mathunjwa yesterday belted out the song Makuliwe (let us fight) and refused to rule out the possibility of a strike by his union’s 200,000 members to prevent it from being deregistered.
Addressing a media briefing flanked by central executive committee (CEC) members, on the pending deregistration, he said should the union fail to comply with sections of the Labour Relations Act (LRA) requiring the submission of audited financial statements and holding of regular elective conferences, “a strike will be a decision of Amcu members”.
With Sibanye-Stillwater having recently endured crippling Amcu-led five-month long strike action, should the deregistration of Amcu go ahead, tensions with rival National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) members are likely to be heightened in the platinum-rich North West.
Commenting on the implications of the Amcu-labour standoff, Institute for Security Studies head of justice and violence prevention programme Gareth Newham said: “It is neither in the interests of Amcu nor the department of labour to contribute to a situation where tens of thousands of workers feel alienated, where many may resort to violence to express their grievances.
“Hopefully, we are a long way off before we see increased levels of violence as a result of this intended intervention by the department of labour.
“I imagine that either Amcu will take steps to comply with the requirements of being registered as a union, or possibly interdict the department of labour from deregistering it,” added Newham.
Registrar of labour Lehlohonolo Daniel Molefe has issued Amcu with a notice of noncompliance with the LRA, describing the union as “not genuine as envisaged by the Act”.
This is something Mathunjwa has scoffed at.
Mathunjwa expressed confidence the union “will not be deregistered and will continue to function”.
He said: “Amcu remains a registered trade union and will continue to fight for its members.
“It is clear that this is a political attack to get rid of a genuine union.
“We only heard of Amcu’s notice of deregistration through the media.
“The matter has now been handed to Amcu’s legal team and we will meet with the registrar next Tuesday, hoping to find a solution to the issue.
“The department of labour’s decision makes it clear that the state wants a union that will protect its interests and those of capitalists.
“Capital wants yellow and sweetheart unions so that management can have their way, concluding deals behind closed doors in boardrooms without the mandate of workers.”
Mathunjwa compared the attacks on Amcu to “what happened in the United Kingdom under Margaret Thatcher as prime minister”.
The labour registrar, said Mathunjwa, showed “inconsistency” in serving Amcu with a deregistration notice “in light of violations by other trade unions, which have not complied with LRA standards”.
To demonstrate compliance of LRA prescripts, Mathunjwa said:
- Amcu was run by elected shaft stewards.
- On April 3, the union wrote a letter to the labour registrar, informing him that due to the prolonged strike at Sibanye-Stillwater, the national executive committee elective congress had to be postponed to September. No response was received from the registrar.
- Due to a huge number of new branches, it took six months to organise a congress to be approved by the CEC.