The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), the union that led the platinum upheaval this year, is gaining ground in the gold-mining industry and may reach a majority by April.

AMCU represents about 30% of employees in the gold industry and is winning members from the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), leading gold producer Sibanye Gold’s CEO Neal Froneman told reporters on Thursday.

AMCU dominance

“It’s real and it’s happening,” Froneman said after a presentation at a mining conference in Johannesburg, according to a Bloomberg report. “It’s a migration away from NUM,” said the mining executive.

The AMCU led a five-month strike of about 70 000 workers in South Africa’s platinum industry earlier this year, costing the world’s three biggest producers of the metal about R24 billion in revenue.

The stoppage reduced annualized growth by 2.2 percentage points in the first quarter, according to the central bank, reported Bloomberg.

Bullion producers including AngloGold Ashanti, Harmony Gold and Gold Fields, who in September 2013 settled a two-year wage agreement, begin pay talks in April.

The AMCU represents 21% of bullion-industry staff, Charmane Russell, a spokesperson for the companies at Russell & Associates, said by e-mail to Bloomberg.

Collective Bargaining

Becoming the majority union, defined as more than 50% workers, is critical in gold because of collective bargaining laws that mean an agreement with the biggest labour group is binding for smaller unions.

“I’m not too fazed” by the growth of AMCU, Froneman said. “We get on well with our AMCU branch in Driefontein. We get on well with some of our NUM branches. It’s the same thing. I think AMCU is learning very quickly.”

Gold strike?

Froneman said it’s ‘hard to tell’ if there will be a prolonged strike in gold next year. Sibanye has a number of engagement projects such as housebuilding and miners’ personal debt reduction, he said.

Harmony CEO Graham Briggs doesn’t foresee a prolonged strike in gold next year like there was in platinum this year, he said in an interview yesterday.

“It won’t happen in gold and it’s because of leadership,” he said. “We negotiated in 2013. We went through the whole negotiation and solved a salary problem. OK, it took a bit of time, but we only had a five-day strike.”
Harmony has seen a significant change in union membership in the last few months, he said.

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