S.Africa union agrees to deal to end strike

South Africa’s radical AMCU union on Friday said that it had agreed in principle to a deal to end the country’s longest-ever mining strike, a day after platinum producers announced the agreement.

“In principle we have agreed to the offer,” Joseph Mathunjwa, the leader of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, told the SAPA news agency.

“There are still issues that we need to consult with the employer,” the agency quoted him as saying.

A local union leader said earlier the conditions include the rehiring of a group of workers who were fired in April after striking illegally.

Mathunjwa’s comments came a day after South Africa’s three main platinum producers — Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin — said that they had struck a deal in principle that union leaders would now take to members for final approval.

The strike at South Africa’s platinum mines began in January, when tens of thousands of workers downed tools demanding higher wages, and has crippled the sector.

The new wage offer for lowest-paid workers includes a 1,000-rand ($90, 70 euro) raise in monthly salary for two years, then 950 rands for the following three years, according to a statement from Impala Platinum.

The deal would be backdated to July last year for Implats and Amplats, while Lonmin would implement the raises from last October.

This would practically double the current minimum wage of 5,500 rand to 10,500 rand ($980, 720 euro) by July 1, 2017, and effectively preempt further strikes for the next five years.

Other worker categories would get an 8.0-percent raise for 2013 and 2014, then 7.5 percent the next three years.

“Our proposal is basically for a 1,000 rands a month for five years, Implats spokesman Johan Theron told AFP.

“But the feedback we are receiving from the mass meetings is that they are saying perhaps they only want the first three years and maybe not all the five years.”

This would suggest the workers might consider a fresh strike and negotiations within three years.

The offer would fall short of the 12,500 rand ($1,160, 860 euro) the workers demanded, a figure used as rallying cry over the past two years that propelled AMCU to prominence.

The employers were still awaiting AMCU’s official response, said Theron.

The five-month work stoppage helped push the country’s economy into contraction in the first quarter of this year, the first time since the global economic crisis five years ago.

South Africa holds around 80 percent of the world’s known platinum reserves, and platinum group metals raked in 9.0 percent of export earnings last year.

The Fitch ratings agency on Friday revised South Africa’s outlook to negative from stable, partly because of the effect that the strike has had on the economy.


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