Five-month platinum strike finally ends
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Johannesburg - Union members at South African operations of the world’s largest platinum companies today said they accept a pay deal from producers, bringing closer the end of a crippling five-month strike.
“If we sign the offer tomorrow, it means the strike has ended officially and that workers will go to work on Wednesday,” Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union President Joseph Mathunjwa said at a mass rally.
Thousands of Amcu members shouted out their approval for the offer from Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin at the Royal Bafokeng stadium in Rustenburg, 120 kilometres northwest of Johannesburg.
“Basic salaries have gone up and even your working over time has improved,” Mathunjwa said.
Workers in the stadium answered “yes” when the union leader asked them three times whether they accepted the companies’ proposal.
The stoppage by at least 70,000 miners cost the companies 23.9 billion rand in revenue and workers 10.6 billion rand in wages since January 23, according to the producers.
The deadlock in the nation that accounts for about 70 percent of platinum mined globally pushed its economy into contraction in the first three months of 2014.
Lonmin extended gains after the union rally outcome, rising 4.9 percent to 260.5 pence at 4:10 p.m. in London.
Platinum declined 0.9 percent to $1,444.03 an ounce.
South Africa’s credit rating was cut on June 13 to one level above junk by Standard & Poor’s, which cited the country’s longest and costliest mining strike as among reasons for the assessment.
The deal includes increases of 8 percent for the lowest-paid workers, or 1,000 rand a month, whichever is higher, Mathunjwa said at the stadium.
The companies agreed to implement the increases over three years, he said. South Africa’s inflation rate was 6.6 percent in May.
Lonmin has agreed to reinstate 236 workers who lost their jobs, Mathunjwa said.
Anglo American Platinum workers will get food parcels and vitamins in their first month back at work, he said.
The Amcu’s original demand was that basic monthly wage of the lowest-paid workers be more than doubled to 12,500 rand.
The union then relaxed the date by which this could be reached.
Some workers will be earning this figure within three years, Mathunjwa said at today’s rally.
Before Mathunjwa spoke, Amcu members marched around the stadium’s track, singing as they went.
A man in the group held up a sign reading “rest in peace NUM,” referring to the National Union of Mineworkers, which the Amcu displaced as the biggest representative of platinum employees.
The miners also held up a coffin painted red and bearing a NUM sticker. - Bloomberg News