South African platinum strike over, union leader says

A five-month platinum strike in South Africa is "officially over," says the leader of the union behind the strike.

Workers to return to work Wednesday after five-month strike over wages

A five-month platinum strike in South Africa is "officially over," says the leader of the union behind the strike.

Joseph Mathunjwa, the president of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), said the union had accepted a wage deal in the strike, which had cut off  production of 45 per cent of the global supply of platinum.

The agreement will be signed on Tuesday and workers will return to work on Wednesday,

Mathunjwa said in an address to 20,000 union members at a stadium near Rustenburg, a town in a key platinum-producing area.

The companies involved in the strike — Lonmin, Impala Platinum and Anglo American Platinum — have not yet commented.

South Africa is a major producer of platinum, which is used in medical, electronic and other industries and the industry is a stalwart of the South African economy.

South African’s currency, the rand, rose one per cent Monday in reaction to the news.

The strike began on Jan. 23, when more than 70,000 workers walked off the job to demand higher wages and benefits. They had rejected a nine per cent pay hike and wanted pay to triple. 

Mathunjwa told workers the companies had "agreed to the bulk of our demands" including a pay scale ranging up to 12,500 rand a month ($1,270).

The workers, who have been without pay, for five months, chanted “sign, sign, sign” after his speech.

 One miner, AsaveluMncube, said he was relieved the strike was over.

"I am waiting for my back pay so that I can catch up with life," the South African Press Association quoted him as saying. "We lost a lot during the strike, but it was for a good cause."

Platinum producers said they lost more than $2 billion in revenue since the strike started, while workers lost nearly $1 billion in unpaid salaries. The country's economy shrank 0.6 per cent in the first quarter from a year earlier, the first quarterly contraction since 2009.

With files from the Associated Press