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AMCU union officially replaces rival

Joseph Mathunjwa, AMCU president | Image from YouTube, AFP

Union rivalries in South Africa’s mining sector have hit a major turning point: Platinum-miner Lonmin (LON:LMI) has officially recognized the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) as the majority labour organization of its employees.

“It is excellent news for Lonmin, for our employees and for all our stakeholders,” Ben Magara, CEO of the company said in a statement. “It has not been easy, and I would like to recognise the efforts of both our teams, AMCU and Lonmin.”

The AMCU has a troubled history with Lonmin – this Friday will mark the one-year anniversary of a protest in which 34 workers were killed by police officers at the company’s Marikana mine.

Lonmin had given a heads up to the former majority union – the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) – after the organization failed to recruit more members in July, South Africa’s The New Age reports. NUM will have to cede its on-site offices to AMCU which represents 70% of unionised employees.

Joseph Mathunjwa, AMCU president, told The New Age that he does not expect the recognition to lead to any violence. The two groups have been competing for members – often violently – since last year.

Earlier this week a NUM representative was shot and killed in Marikana which some believe is an indication of an ongoing turf war. A NUM member was also murdered at the mine in June.

Otherwise, recognition is expected to avert strike action and open the way for wage talks in the coming weeks.

But pay negotiations between other companies and unions have proven extremely difficult.On Tuesday several leading unions rejected an offer by the Chamber of Mines to increase wages by 5.5%. Most labour representatives have been asking for at least a 50% wage increase.