South African mine strikes ease with deal at Amplats

Sat Oct 27, 2012 4:56am EDT
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By Jon Herskovitz and Sherilee Lakmidas

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Striking workers have reached a deal with platinum giant Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) to reinstate 12,000 miners sacked for an illegal strike, which could end the last major industrial action rocking South Africa's mining sector.

Months of often violent wildcat strikes have cut production in the platinum and gold sectors, raising concerns about slowing economic growth as well as awkward questions about President Jacob Zuma's management of the most damaging labor strife since the end of apartheid in 1994.

"They agreed to reinstate all the dismissed workers on the provision that they return to work by Tuesday," Lesiba Seshoka, spokesman for the powerful National Union of Mineworkers, told Reuters on Saturday.

Seshoka said he expected workers would return to their posts and "that will mean the end of the strike".

Amplats (AMSJ.J: Quote) said in a separate statement it had reached the deal with the unions and offered sweeteners such as a one-off hardship payment of 2,000 rand ($230) to facilitate the return. The strike has lasted about six weeks and crippled production.

"Employees who do not return to work on Tuesday ... will remain dismissed and/or be subjected to the illegal strike disciplinary action and will not be eligible for any of the benefits mentioned above," it said in a statement.

Over the past days, separate wildcat strikes over wages and working conditions in the gold sector have come to an end with employers sacking, or threatening to sack, miners striking illegally.

South African labor law has clear processes for strikes and walk-outs. Those that do not go through all the proper bureaucratic hoops are considered illegal, and can result in striking workers being sacked.   Continued...

Striking platinum miners march near the Anglo-American Platinum (AMPLATS) mine near Rustenburg in South Africa's North West Province in this file October 5, 2012 photo. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings