* Companies say job cuts "inevitable" after strike
* Production to resume around September
* Five-month platinum strike hurt South Africa's economy
(Adds colour, President Zuma, AMCU leader, analyst)
By Zandi Shabalala and Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo
JOHANNESBURG, June 24 The world's three biggest
platinum firms signed a wage deal with South Africa's AMCU union
on Tuesday but said that fallout from a five-month strike made
job cuts and restructuring inevitable, setting the scene for
more labour turmoil.
The three-year agreement with Anglo American Platinum
, Impala Platinum and Lonmin
ended South Africa's longest and costliest strike. The union's
70,000 striking members will return to work on Wednesday.
Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU)
president Joseph Mathunjwa told Reuters the companies had
committed to "no retrenchments" for the duration of the deal,
although his comment was at odds with statements from the firms.
Lonmin, the smallest of the three producers, said
restructuring was "inevitable" to ensure its business remained
afloat, especially while industrial demand for platinum in
vehicle catalytic converters remained subdued.
Speaking to reporters and standing alongside his
counterparts at Amplats and Implats after signing the deal,
Lonmin CEO Ben Magara said the road ahead for the industry
"remained a big challenge".
The companies have lost over 24 billion rand ($2.26 billion)
in revenue as a result of the strike and production will only
resume in September.
"It's inevitable that the producers' margins will shrink on
the back of this, unless we see a strong platinum price
reaction, which has been muted to date," said Investec analyst
The Mining Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi, who played an
important mediation role after assuming office last month, told
Reuters he wants to overhaul union-friendly labour laws to avoid
another prolonged and nationally damaging stalemate.
"What we're proposing is restructuring of the labour
relations regime," he told Reuters. "It's not something that
will happen quickly. That is a big deal and we do need everyone
to buy into that."
Pushing through reforms is likely to face stiff opposition
and Mathunjwa has already warned any changes to legislation
would be "unconstitutional".
Job cuts are also a thorny issue in South Africa, which has
an unemployment rate of close to 25 percent and AMCU members
have gone on wildcat strikes to protest at planned job losses at
As it embarked on the strike in January under the populist
battle cry of a "living wage", AMCU had initially demanded that
basic wages of miners be more than doubled immediately to 12,500
rand a month.
In the end, its members settled for increases that amounted
to around 20 percent annually.
Mathunjwa told reporters following the signing ceremony that
AMCU would continue to "fight" for a 12,500 rand basic wage,
suggesting negotiations were likely to rumble on in the future.
President Jacob Zuma welcomed the resolution of the platinum
strike in a statement, pledging to revitalise battered mining
communities and restore labour stability.
Life began to trickle back into the mining towns northwest
of Johannesburg as miners returned after spending months with
their families in rural home villages sitting out the strike.
"I haven't seen a cash vehicle coming out this way in a long
time," said general store owner Mohamed Moosa, 38, describing a
truck bringing notes to an ATM in the dusty town of Marikana,
which has been starved of cash and customers.
Investors will now be eyeing other potential labour unrest
as the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, the
country's biggest union with more than 200,000 members, is
threatening to down tools from July 1, a move that would hobble
the vital auto industry.
($1 = 10.6164 South African Rand)
(Additional reporting by Ed Stoddard and Silvia Antonioli;
Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by Ed Cropley and Ralph Boulton)