November 15, 2019 / 10:08 AM / a month ago

South Africa's platinum mining firms, top union end 'titanic battle' as they seal wage deal

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa’s biggest platinum mining union sealed three-year wage hike agreements with Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum, and Sibanye-Stillwater on Friday, ending months of negotiation over pay.

The deal comes as a relief to the sector, where officials were fearful of a repeat of a five-month platinum strike in 2014-2015 which crippled production and hurt the economy.

The mood was celebratory as the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) signed deals which union president Joseph Mathunjwa said increased workers’ monthly wages by at least 1,000 rand ($67.19).

AMCU had been in wage talks with the country’s top platinum miners since June, and in October referred the dispute with Amplats and Sibanye-Stillwater to a government mediation body.

“It has never been an easy journey ... but we managed to come to this day where we are all smiling,” said Jimmy Gama, AMCU’s chief negotiator, thanking the Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) for its role in the deal.

Union members wearing green AMCU polo shirts sang, clapped, and danced as Mathunjwa signed the agreements with representatives from the country’s top platinum producers at a ceremony in Johannesburg.

Nico van Rooyen, sector manager at smaller union UASA that was also involved in the wage talks, said the deal was the culmination of a “titanic battle”.

“Today is a momentous occasion, not only for the platinum industry, but for South Africa as a whole,” said Lee-Ann Samuel, executive director at Impala Platinum, emphasizing the importance of job security in a country with unemployment at an 11-year high.

The deal takes into account future inflationary pressures, said Samuel.

“It is encouraging that the negotiations were conducted in a constructive manner without any disruption,” Sibanye-Stillwater CEO Neal Froneman said in a statement.

Both Sibanye-Stillwater and Anglo American Platinum agreed to increase workers’ wages by 1,000 rand a month.

“We are very pleased to have reached an agreement, and we welcome the collaborative and constructive engagements with the unions throughout the process,” Amplats CEO Chris Griffith said.

Reporting by Helen Reid, Editing by Olivia Kumwenda-Mtambo and Emelia Sithole-Matarise

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