Zuma welcomes end of platinum strike

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ZumaHand.jpg Independent Newspapers President Jacob Zuma. Photo: Leon Nicholas.

Johannesburg - President Jacob Zuma welcomed the resolution of the five-month strike in the platinum mining sector on Tuesday.

“We welcome this positive development in the mining industry and congratulate all those who have been involved in the negotiations,” Zuma said in a statement.

The Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union on Tuesday afternoon signed agreements with Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin, bringing an end to the protracted strike in the sector.

A long strike was no longer in the interests of the parties involved, nor in the interests of the country, Zuma said.

“We look forward to working with all stakeholders to implement the measures announced in the state-of-the-nation address last week to revitalise mining towns and restore labour stability in the sector.”

Congress of SA Trade Unions (Cosatu) spokesman Patrick Craven also welcomed the three-year wage deal.

“This increase is in line with what Cosatu believes is the minimum acceptable for mine workers toiling in unhealthy and dangerous conditions, and will continue the campaign for a statutory national minimum wage,” he said in a statement.

Earnings should reflect workers' qualifications, skills and the danger of the job.

Cosatu condemned cases of violence and intimidation linked to the strike and called for the perpetrators to face justice.

The Workers' and Socialist Party (Wasp) said the resolution of the strike was a step toward the realisation of “a living wage for all”.

“This strike, inspired by the martyrs of Marikana, has been the most important since the 2012 mineworkers' strikes,” Wasp said in a statement.

Forty-four people were killed during strike-related violence at Lonmin's platinum mining operations at Marikana, near Rustenburg in the North West in 2012.

Thirty-four of these, mostly striking mineworkers, were shot dead in a clash with police, who were apparently trying to disarm them, on August 16, 2012.

“The deal being signed today is also a victory over the virtual army of detractors that has attempted to demonise not only the striking workers and Amcu, but also anyone daring to actively support their action, for allegedly ruining the SA economy,” Wasp said.

Earlier, Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene said that the mining sector had contracted around 25 percent in the first quarter of the financial year, about 19 percent of which could be attributed to the platinum strike.

“To this end, the news of a settlement is most welcome,” he said in a speech prepared for delivery at a KPMG forum in Johannesburg.

“The ending of the strike in the platinum sector should have a positive impact on sentiment and ultimately economic growth,” Nene said.

Economist at the University of the Witwatersrand, Kenneth Creamer, described the strike as a momentous event.

“The strike, together with the related deaths at Marikana, has entered South Africa's wider political consciousness and will be reflected in the country's history books for decades to come.”

The strike brought intense financial hardship to affected mineworkers and their families, and had pushed the economy towards recession.

“The strike will result in some distributional gains for lower-paid mine workers, but in the longer run, South African mining wages will only be able to rise sustainably with improved mining technologies,” Creamer said.

Such technologies would allow for increased productivity, and this innovation could lead to a fairer sharing of gains between workers, mining companies and the wider community.

“The strike has exacted a very high cost on South Africa and much effort is required, at political and civil society levels, in order to regenerate an environment conducive to the higher levels of investment and growth that are required to stimulate sustained job creation,” Creamer said. - Sapa



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