South African union urges Lonmin workers to end strike

Wed May 15, 2013 11:12am EDT
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By Ed Stoddard

MARIKANA, South Africa (Reuters) - The main union at Lonmin's (LMI.L: Quote) (LONJ.J: Quote) South African platinum shafts told striking miners to return to work on Wednesday, potentially defusing a two-day wildcat action that had raised fears of a fresh wave of labor violence.

Leaders of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) told thousands of strikers at a rally to return to their posts, pending negotiations between the union and an independent mediator.

The miners looked likely to return for Wednesday's night shift as instructed.

Further outbreaks of violence could damage the export competitiveness of South Africa's mining industry, with a possible credit downgrade for Africa's biggest economy, analysts at ratings agency Moody's said in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

Tensions have been running high over looming job cuts and wage talks in the sector, complicated by a turf war between AMCU and its rival, the established National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), that contributed to deadly strikes at Lonmin and other platinum producers last year.

Addressing the rally at a dusty football pitch near Lonmin's Marikana mine 120 km (70 miles) northwest of Johannesburg, AMCU President Joseph Mathunjwa told strikers that the union would press for Lonmin management to recognize it as the majority union.

Lonmin spokeswoman Sue Vey told reporters earlier that the company had not been issued with any formal demands relating to the two-day walkout at all its 13 shafts.

"It seems to be union rivalry," she said.   Continued...

An unruly AMCU member (L) is removed from a gathering as other members are addressed by their leaders during a strike at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine in Rustenburg, 100 km (62 miles) northwest of Johannesburg, May 15, 2013. REUTERS/Siphiwe Sibeko