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Top South African court rules against AMCU mining union on strike rights

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Top South African court rules against AMCU mining union on strike rights

Johannesburg — The highest court in South Africa ruled against the Associated Mineworkers and Construction Union Tuesday in a landmark case that is likely to blunt the union's ability to go its own way in wage negotiations.

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AMCU said Tuesday its lawyers are studying the judgment and will decide later in the day whether to appeal.

The Constitutional Court dismissed an appeal by AMCU against a decision on June 23, 2014 by the Labour Court to uphold an interim interdict, brought by gold producers Harmony, AngloGold Ashanti and Sibanye, to prevent the union from going on a protected strike. A protected strike means no worker can be fired for downing tools.

"This ruling brings final certainty about the binding nature of the extended 2013 wage agreement reached at a centralized level by way of an inclusive process," chief negotiator for the Chamber of Mines Elize Strydom said.

The case went to the Labour Court when AMCU refused to sign a new pay deal, agreed by other unions the National Union of Mineworkers, UASA and Solidarity,to run from July 1 2013 to June 30 2015. The employers argued that, under collective bargaining, the deal should also be extended to AMCU.

The only problem was that AMCU, which held 17% of the membership in the gold mines in 2014 according to employers, refused and declared a strike that was interdicted swiftly by the gold mining companies.

"We still argue that it is our constitutional right to strike. In our view we are a recognized union at these gold mines yet we are not being listened to.

"Our lawyers will study the judgment today and we will then make a decision on whether to appeal," AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa said.

The court decision is likely to blunt AMCU's power in the mines and prove a boost for the employers' preferred option of one wage agreement for all. The union has built its strength -- not to mention its membership -- by going its own way and going on strike.

--Chris Bishop,
--Edited by Jonathan Dart,