Top South African court rules against AMCU mining union on strike rights

Johannesburg (Platts)--21 Feb 2017 947 am EST/1447 GMT

The highest court in South Africa ruled against the Associated Mineworkers and Construction Union Tuesday in a landmark case that is likely to blunt the union's ability to go its own way in wage negotiations.

AMCU said Tuesday its lawyers are studying the judgment and will decide later in the day whether to appeal.

The Constitutional Court dismissed an appeal by AMCU against a decision on June 23, 2014 by the Labour Court to uphold an interim interdict, brought by gold producers Harmony, AngloGold Ashanti and Sibanye, to prevent the union from going on a protected strike. A protected strike means no worker can be fired for downing tools.

"This ruling brings final certainty about the binding nature of the extended 2013 wage agreement reached at a centralized level by way of an inclusive process," chief negotiator for the Chamber of Mines Elize Strydom said.

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The case went to the Labour Court when AMCU refused to sign a new pay deal, agreed by other unions the National Union of Mineworkers, UASA and Solidarity,to run from July 1 2013 to June 30 2015. The employers argued that, under collective bargaining, the deal should also be extended to AMCU.

The only problem was that AMCU, which held 17% of the membership in the gold mines in 2014 according to employers, refused and declared a strike that was interdicted swiftly by the gold mining companies.

"We still argue that it is our constitutional right to strike. In our view we are a recognized union at these gold mines yet we are not being listened to.

"Our lawyers will study the judgment today and we will then make a decision on whether to appeal," AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa said.

The court decision is likely to blunt AMCU's power in the mines and prove a boost for the employers' preferred option of one wage agreement for all. The union has built its strength -- not to mention its membership -- by going its own way and going on strike.

--Chris Bishop,
--Edited by Jonathan Dart,

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