UASA achieves major victory for minority unions at CCMA

UASA achieved a major victory on Friday, 2 November 2018, when the CCMA granted the union basic organisational rights at Lonmin.

The CCMA ruling allows UASA to establish a presence in the workplace and once it has increased its numbers it may prevail upon the employer to grant collective bargaining rights.

The CCMA ruling follows on the recent Constitutional Court ruling on minority unions that outlawed the abuse of a trade union’s majority status to deny members of minority unions their right to recognition, collective bargaining and freedom of association in the workplace.

After the prolonged platinum strike at Lonmin in 2014, AMCU became the majority labour union at the mine and as such signed a recognition agreement with Lonmin. The agreement robbed UASA and other minority unions of recognition at Lonmin, including the loss of organisational rights such as access to the workplace, deduction of union subscriptions by the employer and the granting of leave for certain union activities.

UASA, in collaboration with two other minority unions, declared a dispute with Lonmin. During the subsequent arbitration case at the CCMA last Friday, legal counsel acting for the minority unions used arguments outlined in the above-mentioned Constitutional Court case.

During the arbitration, CCMA Commissioner Eleanor Hambidge weighed up the rights of minority unions to organise in the workplace against that of AMCU, the existing majority union at Lonmin, despite AMCU’s existing recognition agreement with Lonmin

Hambidge stated that she had to militate against the use of the “majoritarianism” principle by the majority union at Lonmin where this principle is used “as an implement of oppression to suppress minority unions”.

The addition of Section 21 (8C) of the Labour Relations Act in 2014 was an amendment made in order to recognise that minority unions may not be overwhelmed and effectively bullied into submission by a single majority union. Hambidge stated that a mere “count of numbers” would lead to unfairness against minority unions and would constrain the ability of such unions from operating in the workplace. She ruled that a minority union that “represents significant important meritorious interests of members” should not be prevented from defending the interests of their members.

Acknowledgment was given to the weight of “not mere percentages” but the influence which a union exerts in the workplace.

The CCMA ruling recognises the right of three existing unions acting together to be granted organising rights such as access to the workplace; deduction of union subscriptions by the employer and the granting of leave for certain union activities.

UASA was granted these rights even though an argument was put forward that the inclusion of minority unions would undermine the existing single bargaining unit.

UASA thus has achieved a major victory in that employees may join the union of their choice and enjoy representation and defence of their interests in the workplace.

For further enquiries or to set up a personal interview, contact adv. Nick van Rooyen at 082 494 7399.