The emergence and growing prominence of Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), the new kid on the labour movement block in South Africa, has shaken the stability of the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), until recently an organisation which was the respected voice of mineworkers.
The NUM lost workers’ loyalty during the six month long platinum strike, which followed the infamous Marikana Massacre, in which striking mineworkers were shot dead in their confrontation with the police.
While NUM which was expected to be on the frontline leading the fight for the mineworker’s grievances dithered, AMCU exploited the situation to fill the void, and to good effect. It spearheaded what has been dubbed the longest strike in the history of South Africa’s mining industry, which lasted for five months, until a resolution was reached. Despite of not having the $800 dollar monthly salary demand met, AMCU had announced its arrival resoundingly. The applecart had been turned.
Now, AMCU is gaining recognition as the representative of mineworkers in the platinum sector, as most mineworkers are switching allegiances from NUM to it.
In April this year, during the Lily Mine accident in Barberton, Mpumalanga Province, the AMCU president, Joseph Mathungwa, went on a charm offensive, comforting the aggrieved at the coalface. This gesture of concern positioned the organisation – or at least its president – as compassionate.
All things considered, AMCU has become a proverbial thorn in the flesh on the side of established mining companies, who are now willing to negotiate with it over unionised employees’ grievances. This is more than proof positive of its growing relevance.