South Africa’s mining minister said Saturday he expected the world’s biggest platinum producers and workers to find a deal by early next week to end a crippling strike that has dragged the economy into the red.
Newly appointed Mines Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi said government meditators will hold their last meeting with the union and platinum producers on Monday.
“Hopefully we will have a happy Monday,” he told reporters, adding that the government will stop mediating in the wage conflict if the two sides fail to reach a deal.
“I am pulling out on Monday if they do not find” a deal, he said.
After months of standing on the sidelines, the government stepped in last week to try resolve the dispute that has sank the economy into its first contraction since the global economic crisis five years ago, raising the spectre of recession.
The minister said he was “convinced we did enough work” for the negotiating parties to come to a solution.
It will be a “sad Monday if the parties decide not to walk the last mile.”
The government stepped in after several rounds of failed mediation since the 80,000 platinum mine workers at Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin downed tools on January 23.
The radical Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) had been demanding that the minimum monthly basic wage be doubled to $1,180, an amount the mining firms say they can’t afford.
The mining firms say the strike — one of the longest in South Africa’s history — has cost them almost $2 billion in lost revenue, while workers have missed out on almost $840,000 in wages.