Five months of striking hell could soon be over (or not)
Sibanye could impose the deal signed with other unions on Amcu’s members, rendering the strike unprotected
The union membership verification process at Sibanye-Stillwater’s gold mines, which are bogged down in a protracted strike, will be the key to decide the direction of the stoppage.
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) has some 14,000 members out on what is rapidly approaching a five-month strike.
If the verification process shows that the three unions Sibanye signed a wage deal with in November 2018 hold the majority when it comes to employee representation, the strike is effectively dead in the water – because Sibanye can then impose the agreement on Amcu’s members, rendering the strike unprotected.
The verified numbers would be taken to the labour court, which ordered the process be undertaken to resolve an argument between the union and Sibanye over membership numbers immediately before the strike and subsequent to the start of the action called on November 21.
Once that happens, Sibanye can take disciplinary action against those not returning to work in what has been a strike marred by intimidation and violence. Mineral resources minister Gwede Mantashe said nine people have been killed and more than 60 houses burnt in incidents related to the stoppage.
Amcu is unlikely to accept such an outcome and smart money would bet on a court challenge or appeal. If Amcu is shown to hold the same narrow majority it did before the start of the strike, then there is no reason for the union to call its members back to work. It will keep the pressure on Sibanye, which has steadfastly refused to budge from the offer agreed with the National Union of Mineworkers, Solidarity and Uasa.The union membership verification process is now the most highly anticipated development in the strike because so much hangs on the outcome.