Picture: THINKSTOCK
Picture: THINKSTOCK

THE Labour Appeal Court has dismissed an application by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) to appeal an interdict preventing a strike by the union at gold producers at which it is not in the majority.

The Chamber of Mines, on behalf of producers AngloGold Ashanti, Harmony Gold and Sibanye Gold, welcomed the outcome on Thursday as "in the best interests of both employees and the industry". Amcu, which could not immediately be reached for comment, was waiting on the judgment before embarking on a possible protected strike at Sibanye.

In a previous round of negotiations, the Chamber of Mines had gone to court in 2014 seeking a prohibition of a strike by Amcu, which maintained it should have a right to strike at mines where it had a majority, even if it did not have a majority at company level.

The court ruled in favour of producers, which Amcu then appealed.

In wage negotiations last year, producers, including Sibanye Gold, signed a three-year wage agreement with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), Solidarity and the United Association of SA (Uasa).

Amcu, however, which did not sign the agreement, had a legal right to strike at Sibanye where the other three unions did not represent 50% plus one employees. Amcu, while not the majority, therefore had a legal right to strike in furtherance of its R12,500 wage demand. A successful appeal of the judgment may have given the union legal avenues to co-ordinate a strike at Sibanye with strikes at some AngloGold and Harmony Gold mines.

The union, however, held off on this strike pending the outcome of the appeal, while Sibanye said it could not raise its offer above that agreed to with other unions.

A spokesman for Amcu said on Thursday that the union would comment, but was currently studying the judgment. The union had said earlier in March that it would issue a 48-hour strike notice if Sibanye did not respond favourably regarding a request for negotiations.

Sibanye Gold spokesman James Wellsted reiterated on Thursday that the company would not re-open wage negotiations with Amcu. 

"We do want to engage on a social and economic compact. We do think that employees should be benefiting from high margins," he said.