The Labour Department has said it intends to deregister one of the country's biggest mining unions, just weeks before crucial platinum-industry wage talks are expected to begin.
The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) "has ceased to function in terms of its constitution," and "is not a genuine trade union," the registrar of labour relations said in a notice published in the Government Gazette.
It didn't provide further details.
The move comes as the union gears up for a face-off with platinum producers such as Anglo American Platinum [JSE:AGL], Sibanye Gold [JSE:SGL] and Lonmin [JSE:LON] over new three-year wage agreements.
Thousands of the union's members started returning to work at Sibanye's gold mines Tuesday after it called off a crippling five-month strike. The union led thousands of workers in the longest-ever platinum strike in 2014.
"It's certainly a slap to the union's prestige," said Andrew Levy, managing partner of Andrew Levy Employment, which advises companies on labor relations and monitors industrial action.
While it may not prevent the group from declaring strikes, being removed from the register would mean mining companies could refuse to pay union fees to AMCU, he said. "It's not a good situation at all for them."
The union and interested parties have 60 days to make representations on why the registration should not be cancelled, the notice said.
A spokesperson for AMCU declined to comment. The union has 250 000 active members, according to its website.