WORKERS at Lonmin’s Marikana platinum mine yesterday accepted a hefty 22% wage increase, bringing to an end a crippling strike that shook SA’s postapartheid labour relations regime and left 45 people dead.
While the workers hailed their gains, analysts were warning that other mineworkers may be encouraged also to insist on wage hikes outside negotiated agreements with trade unions.
In reaction, the rand rebounded against the dollar while shorter-dated bond yields dipped after news of the Lonmin deal. Platinum prices slid 2.8%.
Earlier, while Lonmin management refused to confirm the agreement, saying it was not yet official, the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration later last night said the strike had indeed ended.
The Marikana strike sparked unrest at other mining operations. Gold Fields said yesterday it would not consider demands for a minimum wage of R12,500 — the same hike demanded at Lonmin.
This was the second time this year that workers had broken ranks with the National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), raising concerns that a trend had been established.
Such large increases not only destabilised the sector, but had the potential to lead to job losses, a leading analyst said last night.
"The mining industry, and particularly the platinum industry with its higher cost base, can barely support such hefty increases in wage costs — wages already account for over 60% of costs at Lonmin," said Peter Attard-Montalto, a strategist at Nomura.
Trade union Solidarity said the union hoped the agreement would bring an end to the intimidation and violence, but warned the "abnormal" negotiations borne out of the illegal strike set a dangerous precedent that could occur at other mines in future.
As part of the Lonmin deal, rock drill operators will earn a gross monthly salary of R11‚078‚ production team leaders will gross R13‚022‚ and operators R9,883.
Lonmin has also offered a on e-off bonus of R2,000 if workers returned to work tomorrow.
Reporting back to the workers who had gathered at the Marikana stadium yesterday, strike leader Zolisa Bodlani told the cheering crowd that the increase would be applied across the board.
Although the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) did not play a pivotal role in the final wage settlement, its initial role threw down the gauntlet to the NUM, whose leaders had been accused of getting too close to mining bosses.
Amcu was unavailable at the time of going to print.
Impala Platinum is in talks with an interim workers committee comprised of Amcu and the NUM, for a second round of wage demands this year.
Bishop Jo Seoka‚ president of the South African Council of Churches who negotiated on behalf of the Lonmin workers, said the offer was close to the R12‚500 demanded by the workers when they downed tools on August 10.
"We are happy with the latest offer, it is better than what the workers got before they went on strike," he said.
Senzeni Zokwana, president of the NUM, said the union hoped the agreement would restore peace at Marikana, and their members would accept the outcome and return to work.
Anglo American Platinum confirmed that all of its Rustenburg operations resumed yesterday, although the majority of employees were yet to return to work.