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South African miners strike deal with Lonmin bosses

Latest update : 2012-09-19

Striking platinum mine workers have reached a deal with Lonmin's management that includes a 22% pay rise and a single payment of $250 to cover wages lost during the strike, negotiators said Tuesday. The miners are set to return to work on Thursday.

South African media on Wednesday hailed the end to a wildcat strike at world number three platinum producer Lonmin which killed 45, but warned the 22-percent wage hike deal set a dangerous precedent in the sector.

"The end of the Lonmin strike is something we should all cheer, but how the dispute has been settled may provide a template for workers to use elsewhere. That's the contagion threat," a columnist for Business Day wrote, taking a bitter-sweet tone on the end of the five-week standoff.

Workers at London-listed Lonmin's Marikana mine on Tuesday agreed to return to work Thursday after the company upped their salaries by 22 percent, with a $245 one-off bonus.

Mediators claimed this was the highest raise ever negotiated in the country's labour history.

Illegal strikes spread to other platinum and gold mines in the country following the start of the industrial action at Lonmin on August 10, where police shot dead 34 people.

The business daily said other miners may not stand down until their wages are raised in a similar way.

This threatened to destabilise the entire mining industry, which accounts for a fifth of Africa's largest economy.

"What started as a wage dispute... has morphed into something much bigger, posing a number of questions about the future of the mining industry and SA as an investment case."

"Workers at other mines may be encouraged to adopt the same tactics as the Lonmin workers, especially as they managed to winkle out extra pay from a struggling company."

The Star newspaper reported "this could be bad news for the biggest miners' union in the country, the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM)."

The paper speculated that members of the affiliate of the country's powerful union federation Cosatu -- which is in alliance with the ruling African National Congress -- would abandon NUM.

"There is a strong feeling that NUM members will decamp and move to join the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), the NUM's new rival," it reported.

AMCU has been accused of precipitating the wildcat strikes with unrealistic salary promises to prospective members.

Meanwhile online news site the Daily Maverick wondered over the backroom politics that brought about the deal.

"Even as workers prepare to return to work, questions are now being asked about what exactly happened six weeks into the strike to facilitate the agreement."


Date created : 2012-09-18


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