Miners return to work as 5-month platinum strike ends

2014-06-25 08:19

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Thousands of mine workers returned to the Marikana operations of platinum producer Lonmin today after wage deals were signed to end a five-month strike, the longest and most damaging in South Africa’s history.

The workers, some wrapped in blankets to ward off the chill of the winter morning, lined up outside the gates of Marikana’s process division. They are scheduled to undergo medical and other checks before they descend the shafts to reboot production.

Workers also returned to mines operated by Anglo American Platinum, which were affected as well by the strike by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), a shop steward with the union said.

They were also expected to come back to mines run by Impala Platinum.

“We are back to work, it’s good,” said one miner as he walked up a gravel road to take his place in the growing line.

It will take months to get back to full production as the process of bringing the mines back to life, which will include extensive safety checks, will take some time after the prolonged stoppage, which cost the companies more than R24 billion in lost revenue.

No platinum worker will earn less than R8 000 as a basic salary, Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa said in Johannesburg yesterday.

“No worker in the platinum sector will earn less than R8 000 as a basic salary, which is a breakthrough ... Back pay will be paid in seven days,” he said.

Mathunjwa said Amcu would continue the fight for R12 500, which it believed each member would earn by 2017.

“[This] is the highest wage increase achieved, with entry-level workers receiving an increase of up to 18%.

“Amcu is committed to making sure the R12 500 minimum wage is reached by 2017.”

When asked how he felt about being called a communist by some, Mathunjwa said: “As long as it brings food on the table, that is what is important”.

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