(Adds Sibanye response, detail)
JOHANNESBURG, Dec 21 (Reuters) - A court has found that a strike by a union representing just under half of all workers at Sibanye-Stillwater’s South African gold operations is legal, despite the company declaring otherwise last week.
South Africa’s Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) said on Friday that the court disagreed with Sibanye’s reason for judging the strike unprotected, and ordered Sibanye to pay for the costs of the case.
Sibanye declared the AMCU’s strike, which has been ongoing since mid-November, illegal last week. Had the court found in its favour, the gold miner could have taken disciplinary action against workers that did not show up to work.
“AMCU’s strike is a protected strike and the AMCU members’ constitutional right to strike remains protected,” the union, which represents around 43 percent of workers at Sibanye, said in a statement.
Sibanye’s case centres on its argument that the collective members of three other unions - which have already signed a wage agreement with the firm - make up a majority of employees.
In that case, the miner would be able to extend the wage agreement to other minority unions even if they did not agree, leaving any strike unprotected.
A Sibanye spokesman said the court had not found against its argument, but had asked a dispute resolution body, the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration, to verify Sibanye’s numbers by Jan 7.
“If they verify... we have the right to extend the wage agreement to the AMCU,” the spokesman said.
Sibanye shares were down 1.88 percent to 9.42 rand at 1530 GMT. (Reporting by Emma Rumney Editing by James Macharia)