Jubilation marks the end of painful platinum strike

by Thobile Hans 0

By the crack of dawn today, Lonmin Plc in Marikana was abuzz with mine workers walking in the dark back to their posts after five months.

The day marked the end of the longest strike action in the South African platinum belt.

Before the first shift in one of the Lonmin shafts, smiling mine supervisors and bosses formed a guard of honour to welcome clocking miners. There were jubilations, hand-shakes and hugs.

This followed the culmination of the wage negotiations between three platinum mines and [DATA LON:Lonmin Plc], [DATA IMP:Impala Platinum] and [DATA AMS:Anglo American Platinum] with the union Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).

(READ MORE: AMCU signs wage agreements with platinum producers)

It is however the beginning of the long process that will see miners inducted and put through health examinations before they could resume duties in the shafts. 

Lonmin’s mining division and safety head, Mark Munroe said, “Our supervisors had been medically checked up and retrained. The hospitals are on standby now to take all our workers for tests. When the first worker comes through our doors, we will be there to assist him with his mindset and physical health.”

On January 23, a strong 70,000 AMCU members downed tools demanding 12,500 rand monthly basic salary. Instead, the parties have settled for a three year agreement. The agreement brought an end to the five month in which employers lost revenue close to 24 billion rand and 10.6 billion rand in wages.

The separate agreements reached with each company are effective from 1 July 2013 for Amplats and Implats, and Lonmin on 1 October, and will run until June 2016. Employees with basic salary less than 12, 000 rand a month will receive 1000 rand increase over three years, except Lonmin workers who will receive a 950 rand increase in 2016.  

Lonmin CEO, Ben Magara said, “It is our sincere hope that our companies, our industry, our employees and all stakeholders will never again have to endure the pain and suffering of this unprecedented strike period. None of us, nor the country as whole, can afford repetition.”

(READ MORE: Platinum firm Lonmin says “bleeding” from S.Africa strike)

Joseph Mathunjwa, AMCU president addressed a press conference on Tuesday. He said, “This victory ushered a paradigm shift in the entire mining sector. This also shifts the media mindset that our demands were ridiculous.”

Mathunjwa said they have formed a task team that will continue with the union’s proposal to access mining share ownership.