Joseph Mathunjwa
Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa. (Photo: Jay Caboz)
  • It's strange that a previously lenient registrar of labour relations wants to de-register the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), a labour expert says.
  • If that happens, Amcu will simply cease to exist overnight – and its membership will simply disappear.
  • But a legal expert says there is no doubt that Amcu will get an interdict before that can happen.
  • Visit the Business Insider SA homepage for more stories.

If the registrar of labour relations moves ahead with its intention to cancel the registration of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), it will immediately cease to exist as a trade union.Then its 250,000 claimed active members will become workers without any union affiliation with immediate effect.

Amcu will not have access to the workplaces where its former members are employed, and it will not have access to the union dues deducted from the payrolls at those companies. It will lose its ability to call strikes directly, and will lose all its seats on collective bargaining councils.

But that is unlikely to happen in a hurry.

See also: The labour department wants to cancel strike-happy Amcu’s registration – because it isn't a 'genuine trade union'

Amcu has 60 days to make representations about the plan to shut it down, and if those are not "looked favourably upon", the union will certainly turn to the labour court, says Gavin Stansfield, the director of employment law for Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr.

And it is hard to imagine that Amcu would not be granted an urgent interdict to halt the process.

Amcu will tell the labour court that it is taking steps to rectify the specific issues that led to the intention to deregister, says Stansfield. Then it will raise an "equity" argument.

"Like it or not, they play a fairly substantial role in collective bargaining in South Africa," says Stansfield. "They will say it will lead to a very inequitable scenario if within 60 days the hammer falls and their members are suddenly without a home."

It is not yet clear exactly why registrar Lehlohonolo Molefe intends to de-register Amcu; in a notice gazetted on Wednesday Molefe said only that Amcu had "ceased to function in terms of its constitution" and "is not a genuine trade union" as envisaged in the Labour Relations Act.

In the past, all a union had to do to maintain its registration was to file financial statements and a count of its members, says labour specialist and Fin24 columnist Terry Bell.

"The office was quite lenient. Sometimes unions were up to three years behind on their paperwork, and they were still allowed to carry on."

Bell described the move to deregister Amcu as a "very strange situation". 

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