* Platinum strike "officially over" after five months
* Thousands of miners cheer wage offers
* Deal amounts to 20 pct basic wage increase
* Strike dragged down economy, hit platinum output
* Several weeks before mines start producing again
(Adds quotes, details)
By Zandi Shabalala
RUSTENBURG, South Africa, June 23 South Africa's
AMCU union declared a five-month platinum strike "officially
over" on Monday as thousands of miners roared their approval
when leader Joseph Mathunjwa asked if they wanted to end the
longest work stoppage in the country's history.
"Yes! Yes!" the miners chorused as the union boss asked
whether they wanted to accept the wage offers from producers.
"The strike is officially over," Mathunjwa then shouted
back, to unrestrained jubilation from the tens of thousands of
workers packed into Rustenburg's Royal Bafokeng Stadium, one of
the venues for the 2010 soccer World Cup.
The spot price of platinum fell 1 percent, the rand
firmed nearly 1 percent against the dollar to two-week highs and
the London-listed shares of number three producer Lonmin
rose as much as 7 percent.
The precious metal's two biggest producers, Anglo American
Platinum and Impala Platinum, are listed on
the Johannesburg stock market. It had closed by the time
Mathunjwa finished his two-hour-long speech, but their shares
closed up 1.6 percent and 1.1 percent respectively.
Mathunjwa said wage deals would be signed on Tuesday and
workers would start reporting for duty the following day, ending
industrial action that started on January 23 - five months ago
to the day.
Industry sources said they could not confirm signings would
take place on Tuesday but expected workers to return this week.
"I'm very glad the strike is over, because we made a
terrible wound in the South African economy and we are happy to
heal that wound. Our children are suffering because they had no
food," said Lucas Makgwe, a miner at Amplats.
Mathunjwa, a Salvation Army lay preacher who casts himself
as a class warrior doing battle for downtrodden black miners
whose lives have changed little in the 20 years since apartheid
ended, was exultant.
"Today we are creating a historic day in the mining sector,"
Mathunjwa, clad in a trademark AMCU green shirt, told the crowd.
"The platinum sector will never be the same. What other
unions have failed to do over many years, you have achieved in
Under the populist battle cry of a "living wage", AMCU had
initially demanded that basic wages be more than doubled
immediately to 12,500 rand ($1,200) a month. In the end, its
members settled for three-year deals that amount to monthly
increases of around 20 percent, or 1,000 rand a month.
The mining companies, constrained by depressed prices and
soaring costs, had said the massive hikes AMCU was initially
seeking would sink the industry.
Marred at times by violence, the strike hit 40 percent of
global production of platinum, which is used in jewellery and
for emissions-capping catalytic converters in automobiles.
The stoppage dragged Africa's most advanced economy into
contraction in the first quarter and cost the companies almost
24 billion rand ($2.25 billion) in lost revenue, according to an
online tally run by the three firms. (here)
Companies will lose revenue for several more weeks as the
mines slowly grind back into life and production is restarted.
The resolution, while welcome, does not spell an end to the
most turbulent bout of labour unrest since the end of
white-minority rule, with the NUMSA metal workers' union
threatening a strike in the auto industry from next month.
The platinum sector also faces a painful restructuring, with
job cuts almost inevitable - in part because of the losses
incurred during the AMCU strike. That could trigger a further
wave of walkouts or violence.
($1 = 10.7127 South African Rand)
(Additional reporting by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and Ed Stoddard
in Johannesburg; Editing by Ed Cropley, Pascal Fletcher and