* Union ends walkout after winning one-off payment
* Wage talks cast shadow on troubled platinum belt
* Union threaten to halt production at VW plant
(Adds details on labour tensions, threat to VW plant)
By Agnieszka Flak
JOHANNESBURG, May 24 Striking South African
workers at a chrome mine owned by German chemicals group Lanxess
have signed a deal to end a week-long illegal walkout,
after winning a one-off payment from the latest company to give
in to militant labour pressure.
The dispute at the mine in Rustenburg, 120 km (70 miles)
northwest of Johannesburg, added to long-running friction in the
so-called platinum belt that has caused mining production to
slow, raised concerns about Africa's largest economy and sent
the rand to four-year lows.
"All parties agreed on a one-off performance payment,"
Lanxess said in a statement on Friday. "Employees are expected
to resume work on Monday."
An offer by platinum producer Lonmin to
give overall pay increases of up to 22 percent to end more than
five weeks of crippling and bloody industrial action last year
prompted similar wildcat strikes across the sector and beyond.
The Rustenburg area, home to 80 percent of known global
platinum reserves, has become the flashpoint of violent labour
strife and a turf war between the politically connected National
Union of Mineworkers (NUM) and the militant Association of
Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU).
More than 50 people have been killed in labour violence
since last year while several major platinum and gold mines have
had to suspend operations due to wildcat strikes.
Labour leaders have threatened more strikes to protest
against plans by the world's largest producer of the white
metal, Anglo American Platinum, to cut 6,000 mining
jobs. The figure is less than half the 14,000 the company
The company began on Friday the formal and lengthy lay-off
process, which included talks coordinated by South Africa's
industrial arbitration body, the Commission for Conciliation
Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA).
Upcoming wage talks across the economy are expected to be
tough given inflation, rising worker militancy, shrinking
company margins and sharply falling commodity prices.
Employers blame an uncompetitive, low-skill, high-wage
economy with restrictive labour laws for keeping unemployment
high. Since 2000, real after-inflation wages in South Africa
have risen 53 percent, while productivity has fallen 41 percent.
The NUM has demanded wage hikes of up to 60 percent from
gold and coal employers, well above the inflation rate of about
President Jacob Zuma's ruling African National Congress
(ANC) has been in a long-standing governing alliance with labour
groups such as NUM, with cabinet members this week attacking
AMCU for poaching members from its labour ally.
In a separate labour dispute, the National Union of Metal
Workers of South Africa (NUMSA) on Friday threatened to "halt
production" at a Volkswagen factory to protest
against the dismissal of it its members.
NUMSA, also part of a labour federation that supports the
ANC, has demanded a 20 percent pay hike for its workers at
state power utility Eskom.
(Additonal reporting by Tiisetso Motsoeneng; Editing by Jon
Herskovitz and Mark Potter)