Elated platinum miners at the Marikana mine in South Africa returned to work on Thursday of last week, ending a bitter six-week wildcat strike.
The miners accepted a new offer from British-owned mining company Lonmin. The firm has agreed to pay the rock drill operators 11,078 rand (£830) a month.
Other workers at the mine will receive an increase of between 11 percent and 22 percent. Miners will also get a one-off payment of 2,000 rand (£150).
This is less than the miners were demanding—12,500 rand across the board. But it is still a considerable victory.
Zolisa Bodlani, one of the five leaders elected by the striking miners said, “If no people were killed, I’d say this was a great achievement.”
Police gunned down 112 strikers on 16 August, killing 34. The fight for justice for these workers continues. An official investigation into the killings is due to report in four months.
Thousands of miners and their families gathered to sing victory songs in a football stadium on the day the deal was announced. Some chants praised their new AMCU union, which led the strike, while denouncing the old, compromised NUM union.
One ran, “AMCU is coming. We told them and they are coming.” A banner read, “Death certificate—first name: NUM, cause of death: corruption.”
Other miners are still striking for higher pay. Workers at Amplats, South Africa’s biggest platinum producer, marched near Rustenberg on Wednesday to demand that their wage claim is met.
Police fired at the crowd with rubber bullets and stun grenades. Strike leader Evans Ramokga reported that one striker died after being run over by a police armoured car.
African National Congress councillor Paulina Masutlho died last week after being shot by police plastic bullets during a raid on striking Lonmin miners’ houses the previous week.
The victory at Lonmin is liable to increase pressure for industrial action organised outside the control of the NUM. That union is the biggest in South Africa’s Cosatu union federation, which is closely allied to the ANC government.
Last week Cosatu met for its annual congress just outside Johannesburg. The existing leadership was re-elected unopposed, despite the wave of radicalism sweeping through South Africa’s working class.
At an interview during the congress, NUM general secretary Frans Baleni denounced the new wave of militancy with stunning insensitivity.
A month after the police massacre he said it would lead to “a jobs bloodbath”. He went on to voice his real fear, “People can say: ‘They did it at Lonmin, so we can go the same route and not follow the normal bargaining process as per the Labour Relations Act’.”
Workers at Amplats are refusing to negotiate through the NUM. Strikers were set for a mass rally on Wednesday to decide the next move. Workers at Kopanang gold mine struck the day after Lonmin returned to work. Chrome and coal miners have also joined the wave of strikes for more pay.
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