South African platinum miners end strike

Industrial action for pay increase affected 40 per cent of global platinum production

Residents pass the perimeter of the Wonderkop platinum plant operated by Lonmin in Marikana, South Africa. Photograph: Dean Hutton/Bloomberg

Residents pass the perimeter of the Wonderkop platinum plant operated by Lonmin in Marikana, South Africa. Photograph: Dean Hutton/Bloomberg

Mon, Jun 23, 2014, 20:00

The longest industrial action in South African history ended yesterday when 70,000 striking platinum miners agreed to return to work tomorrow after accepting the latest wage offer from their employers.

The deals that were accepted included 12,500 rand (€870) per month for some miners, which was the amount their union, the militant Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), had been seeking.

After accepting the deal from the three largest platinum producers in South Africa, Amcu praised miners at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace near Rustenburg in the North West province for not giving up during the protracted strike.

“Platinum will never be the same again...What other unions could not do in more than 20 years, you could do in five months,” Amcu leader Joseph Mathunjwa said at the rally.

The deal had been on the table for over a week but platinum bosses wanted the various amounts for the different worker categories to be implemented over a five-year period, while the union wanted miners to be paid that amount by 2017. In the end the miners won out and their increases will be implemented over three years.

Contraction

The strike hit 40 per cent of global platinum production. Since it began at the end of January the strike dragged the South African economy into contraction in the first quarter of this year.

It has so far cost the companies almost R24 billion (€1.66bn) in lost revenue, and the miners more than R10 billion (€694m) in lost wages, according to a website set up by the platinum producers.

The details of the deal for different salary bands offered by the three platinum producers, Lonmin, Impala Platinum (Implats) and Anglo Platinum (Amplats), were read out to miners at the North West stadium to get their feedback.

The deal included a R1,000 (€70) per month salary increase for lowest earning miners. The agreement will be back-dated to last July at Implats and Amplats, but the back pay would end on January 22nd, when the strike started.

While the miners celebrated their victory yesterday, experts say in the long run the deal will lead to tens of thousands of job losses in the sector as mining companies are likely to turn to a more mechanised approach to mining to avoid similar industrial action in the future.