Friday, September 7, 2012

Partial truce reached at South Africa’s Lonmin mine

JOHANNESBURG, September 6, 2012

Lonmin Plc said on Thursday that it had reached a truce with some unionized workers employed at its Marikana platinum mine in northern South Africa, where 44 people were killed last month.

But the accord does involve more militant workers who are insisting the industrial action will not end until all demands, which include a tripling of the workers' current salary, are met.

Rock drillers went on a wildcat strike at the mine on August 10.

Ten people, including two police officers and two security guards, were killed in the following days. On August 16, police opened fire on a rioting crowd of protesters, killing 34.

"The intention of the peace deal is so that there is normality back in Marikana," said Lesiba Seshoka, a spokesman for the National Union of Mineworkers, the mainstream union, which accepted the deal.

"Workers are encouraged to go back to work," Seshoka told dpa. He called for an end to violence and intimidation.

The more militant miners are demanding a pay rise to about 12,500 rands (1,500 dollars) a month before they return to work. Some of these miners are not affiliated with any union, while others belong to the hardline Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, which did not sign the truce.

Those miners have threatened to use violence to keep their co-workers from returning to the underground shafts.

"If this mine remains open, there will be blood," militant workers were quoted as saying in local media.

The accord stipulates that the mine, which has been at a production standstill for weeks, must first start functioning again before wage negotiations can take place.

"The company remains committed to reaching a sustainable solution to the problems at Marikana and pledges to do everything that it can to make this happen. Lonmin will continue to work hard to reach a swift and fair resolution and to bring peace and stability to the area," said Simon Scott, the chief executive officer of the world's third-largest platinum producer.

Meanwhile, the last 108 out of the 270 Lonmin miners who were arrested last month were expected to appear in court later on Thursday before being released. A first group of 162 were released on Monday after prosecutors bowed to public pressure and dropped murder charges against them.

Unrest has spread to other mines in South Africa, including in the gold sector, where thousands of workers in the Johannesburg area remain on strike demanding higher wages.
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