Wednesday, 19 September 2012 09:55

S Africa miners to resume work after pay rise

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Striking miners at Lonmin's Marikana mine set to return to work on Thursday after accepting pay increase of 22 per cent.


Striking workers at South Africa's Lonmin platinum mine say they will return to work on Thursday after accepting a pay rise of 22 per cent.

The planned return to work, announced on Tuesday, will end more than five weeks of crippling and bloody industrial action that left at least 34 miners dead in a police crackdown last month.

Workers gathered at a football pitch near the Marikana mine cheered when they were informed of the pay offer, the Reuters news ageny reported.

"The actual increase is about 22 per cent, which is very high," said Bishop Jo Seoka, South African Council of Churches president who brokered the talks between the miners and their employer.

The wage strike, which started on August 10 and spread to other platinum and gold mines in the country, triggered growing concerns that the industrial action would dent the economy of Africa's wealthiest country.

Al Jazeera's Haru Mutasa, reporting from Marikana, said the offer amounted to about $1,200 a month.

"There were some people who were sceptical but generally the majority were happy," she said.

"I am happy - and forward with the struggle," said Sithembile Sohati, one of the striking miners.

"It's a huge achievement. No union has achieved a 22 per cent increase before," Zolisa Bodlani, a worker representative at Marikana, told Reuters.

But our correspondent said despite the miners' promised return to work there were still "big problems" in the platinum belt of the North West province.

"On Tuesday morning, at Anglo American platinum mine, a group of striking miners said they also want a wage increase," she said.

"They started protesting and the police came and dispersed them. They have heard or when they hear that miners here [at Marikana] have been given a wage increase, they will also call for the same or maybe more."

Lost output

Labour unrest in South Africa's gold and platinum mining sectors this year has cost the industry $548m in lost output, Jacob Zuma, South Africa's president, said on Monday.

Zuma blamed poor living and working conditions of miners on the apartheid past and the failures of mining companies to honour a charter to improve the lives of miners.

He also said that heavy-handed police tactics on striking miners should not prevent the miners' right to protest.

"Government deployed law-enforcement agencies to stabilise the situation," he said.

"This does not take away the rights of miners and residents to protest peacefully and unarmed as provided for, in the laws of the land. The agencies have been told to be firm but to respect the rights of residents and strikers."

Zuma told reporters on Tuesday after an EU-South Africa summit meeting in Brussels that he understood why the violence could worry international investors but insisted his country remained a "destination for investment".

"I believe that the manner in which we have swiftly attended to the situation, and we are now in full control - that must give comfort to investors," he said.

The violence has left at least 45 people dead most of them striking miners. Unrest deepened last month when police called in to end a strike at Marikana opened fire on the miners, killing 34.

Prior to that incident, 10 people, including police officers, had been killed at the same mine. Police said they shot the miners in self-defence.

The government has apologised for the violence and instituted a commission of inquiry that is expected to unveil its findings next January.





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