SA miners back at work after 5-month dispute

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Mineworkers at Lonmin, Anglo American Platinum, and Impala Platinum began returning to work on Wednesday following the resolution of the five-month strike in the sector.

Lonmin spokeswoman Sue Vey said the returning workers would have to undergo medicals and retraining before they could resume their jobs.

“We also check all work areas, to ensure they are safe, but we have been doing that throughout the strike (…) We will be ready in a couple of weeks,” she said.

Vey could not immediately give an indication of how many people had returned to work, but said this information would be available later in the day. Amplats and Implats could not immediately be reached for comment.

Three-year wage deals were signed between the three producers and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union at Lonmin’s offices in Melrose Arch, Johannesburg, on Tuesday. Spokeswoman for the producers Charmane Russell said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon: “Employees are expected to return to work on Wednesday, June 25, 2014, with the full resumption of operations in the coming weeks.”

The strike, which began on January 23, cost the companies lost revenue of around R24 billion, while workers lost earnings of around R10.6bn. A website set up by the producers to communicate during the strike, www.platinumwagenegotiations.co.za, has kept a running total of these figures. It had not stopped increasing these numbers by 9am on Wednesday, despite the strike having officially ended.

Political parties, trade unions, business organisations, and President Jacob Zuma are among those who have welcomed the end to the strike. In a statement on Wednesday, Anglican Archbishop Thabo Makgoba of Cape Town congratulated Amcu and the platinum companies for having resolved the strike.

“The union and its members can feel satisfied they have achieved real gains — for now and the future — on the best terms available. The managements can feel that a more equitable deal for their workers will help to secure labour peace in the future.”

He said despite the “tough and drawn out” strike and talks to resolve it, negotiations had triumphed.

“Although democracy is messy and complex, it creates a more secure atmosphere for harmony and collaboration in the longer term.”