In South Africa platinum town, striking miner ready for deal

Fri Apr 25, 2014 9:09am EDT

Related Topics

* Crippling strike has entered its 13th week

* Union leaders rejected improved offer

By Zandi Shabalala and David Dolan

MARIKANA, South Africa, April 25 (Reuters) - After three months without pay, striking miner Jeffery Shipulale is ready to accept almost any offer from his employer, South African platinum producer Lonmin .

"We will even accept 1,000 rand ($94). We are hungry, there is no money," the Mozambican national told Reuters as he and his wife hawked tomatoes, onions, and loose cigarettes at a stand in the ramshackle mining town of Marikana.

The father of six has been forced into the retail business to make ends meet, but he doesn't have to settle for just 1,000 rand a month.

The latest wage offer from Lonmin, Anglo American Platinum and Impala Platinum, which will see annual pay hikes of up to 10 percent and bring the basic entry-level wage to 9,250 rand a month by July 2017, were being communicated directly to workers by cell phone text messages on Friday.

Talks between the producers and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) aimed at ending the 13-week strike collapsed on Thursday.

So the companies are forcing AMCU's hand and taking the offer directly to workers, giving them the option to return to work on their own and betting that after so long without a pay check, many of them will rise to the bait.

In Shipulale's case, they have bet right.

"I'll take the money. I came here to work, not to strike," he said as he sat behind his stand on a plastic milk crate.

A spokesman at Implats confirmed that the offers have been sent out by SMS text messages, through public broadcasts on radio and placed in community newspapers.

"All employees must now seriously consider this offer. We have to work together to find solutions that are affordable and possible to resolve this wage deadlock," says one message.

Many of the strikers will be receiving the messages back in their home villages, far from the shafts in regions such as the Eastern Cape province and neighbouring countries such as Lesotho and Mozambique, where they have returned to sit things out.

Normally bustling Marikana, 120 km (70 miles) northwest of Johannesburg, is eerily quiet.

In the settlements ringing Lonmin's Marikana mine there are few signs of life, with almost all of the doors of the tin-roofed shacks shuttered. There are few pedestrians on the dirt roads and a handful of goats eat rubbish and grass.

($1 = 10.6327 South African Rand) (Writing by Ed Stoddard; Editing by Joe Brock and Giles Elgood)

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