South African miners striking at Lonmin Plc — the world’s third largest platinum mine — have accepted managements latest offer and will return to work on Thursday, the Associated Press and Reuters report.
It is unclear if both the National Union of Mineworkers, the largest and most well-organised union of miners, and the recent, more radical splinter-union, the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, both signed off on the deal.
Reuters also reported that the world’s biggest platinum producer, Anglo American Platinum, “said it had resumed its operations in the strike-hit Rustenburg area.”
About 5,000 strikers gathered to hear the announcement, and when it finally came, spectators greeted the news with roaring cheers.
Bishop Joe Seoka would not give the final details of the agreement to Reuters, but said “it includes a 22 per cent pay increase and a once-off payment of 2,000 rand ($250) to help cover the weeks of not being paid while they were on strike.”
The original offer, submitted on September 16, would have raised salaries for entry-level jobs 16 per cent, and increased some operators salaries up to 21 per cent annually.
Lonmin spokespeople were not immediately available for comment.
Strikes have plagued South Africa’s mining sector for weeks now; hundreds have been out of work and 45 people have been killed, which is the highest death toll in any protest since the end of the apartheid era.
The mining industry, one of the main drivers of South Africa’s economy, has already started to bleed as a result of the strikes. President Jacob Zuma announced yesterday that the strikes will cost approximately $563 million.
Lonmin itself cut its fiscal sales target by 50,000-65,0000 saleable ounces of platinum — approximately 8.7% of its projected annual production.
The future of the labour unrest at other mines is not as clear: violence, intimidation, and extremism have led to fractures within the unions negotiating with the mines.
Additionally, negotiations with workers at gold mines around the country might prove to be more complex. The gold industry must negotiate as a whole, as opposed to the platinum industry, where indivdual firms in the platinum industry can negotiate with workers, Sven Lunsche, a spokesperson for Gold Fields, one of the biggest gold mines in South Africa, told Business Insider.
However, the strikes are unlikely to resolve the greater problem at hand — the gross income inequality that exists as a symptom leftover from apartheid.
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