Deal sought over striking South Africa miners

Labour ministry hopes to mediate deal on Wednesday between rival unions, mine owners and workers demanding higher wages.

    The South African government is seeking a deal to end a stalemate between feuding unions before starting wage talks to end a deadly strike that has crippled the Lonmin mine in the country's northeast.

    The labour ministry said on Tuesday it aims to seal the peace agreement at a meeting set for Wednesday, yet strikers have dug in their heels, saying they have sacrificed too much to settle for less than their demands of 12,500 rand (US $1,500) a month.

    Many of the strikers told Al Jazeera that they currently earn about $500 per month.

    The government sees the peace deal as essential after 44 people were killed in the wave of violence around Lonmin's Marikana mine, including 34 striking workers shot by police in the deadliest security action since apartheid ended in 1994.

    "It is painful because we have already lost our 44 brothers on this issue, so if we can turn them back and go to work without getting anything it will be like we are just selling them," Zolisa Bodlani, a representative for the striking workers, told Reuters news agency.

    'Unions being opportunists'

    Lonmin said the peace accord meeting was scheduled for 0800 GMT on Wednesday in the platinum mining city of Rustenburg, and would include company management, unions and other representatives from among workers.

    The mining sector has been torn by a bloody turf war between the dominant National Union of Mineworkers NUM and the small but more active Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union.

    "It is costing Lonmin over a billion rand so far, they are losing significant production just every week, and this continues," labour market analyst Loane Sharpe told Reuters.

    "The miners seem to be belligerent in their attitude, we are seeing unions being opportunists, National Union of Mineworkers is taking similar wage demands to the gold mine sector, I wouldn't be surprised if this issue spreads."

    Mining operations at Lonmin, the world's third largest producer of platinum, have been effectively frozen for more than two weeks due to the labour strife.

    The Marikana mine is about 100 km northwest of Johannesburg.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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