The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM) recently accepted a seven per cent wage increase offer from the Chamber of Mines.
Negotiations between the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) and the Chamber of Mines are however still underway.
“AMCU have made it clear that they were not party to the agreement and as far as they’re concerned, that’s still in dispute. Whilst they haven’t done anything to actually moderate or modify their position, it’s still over 100 per cent. The debate right now is whether or not they are bound by that agreement,” Andrew Levy Employment labour relations advisor Andrew Levy told CNBC Africa on Monday.
“Now that’s something which the courts will have to pronounce on. At the end of the day, workers are not going to accept the writ of the courts, and potentially it looks as if we are in for possible strike action wherever AMCU may be.”
Levy added that NUM might use their wage offer agreement as a strategic opportunity to stage a confrontation with AMCU, which will determine which of the unions will be left standing.
“The one union is always trying to better-ball the other and so it inflates what is already a very difficult situation. We’ve got to wait and see what AMCU are going to do, and the problem creates significant strategic difficulties for them.”
In the event that a higher wage settlement is reached with AMCU, it could see the union emerge as the victor against its competitor. This would cause an even deeper rift between the two unions.
“The real risk always is that the unions and all their members ignore the court and then it would seem almost inevitable that there is a strike. Such a strike would have to be a lengthy one because if AMCU cannot win this strike and get more, then effectively they’re done for. It’s a do or die,” Levy explained.
“Outlook for labour relations is extremely worrying. At this stage, the situation is fluid. The only thing that seems reasonably certain is the probability of continued conflict in specific mines.”