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Mines mediator says strikers agree to lower salary demand

The striking miners at South Africa’s Marikana platinum mine have accepted for the first time to lower their salary demands, the mediator in the dispute said Monday.

“We have been mandated to negotiate on a specific figure. The workers are not married to the 12,500 rands (1,160 euros, 1,520 dollars)” monthly salary, Bishop Jo Seoka, president of the South African Council of Churches, told the SAPA news agency.

Seoka’s comments came after a meeting in a stadium with 2,000 miners on Monday afternoon that was authorised by police and took place without incident.

He said he could not disclose the figure before they tabled it at negotiations with mining giant Lonmin set to resume Monday.

“We hope the news will be better than this tomorrow (Tuesday),” he said, adding that should an agreement be reached, the miners would return to work on Tuesday.

The miners were reportedly prepared to accept a monthly salary of 11,000 rands, according to news channel eNCA. The strikers claim they currently earn about 4,000 rand per month.

Earlier Seoka had pleaded with the striking miners to lower their monthly salary demand.

“You must give us a mandate to go a little bit down,” he told them, while insisting it should not be to the level that would hurt them.

The bishop had been called in to help with the mining crisis after police last month shot dead 34 strikers taking part in the wildcat strike which began at Marikana on August 10.

The unrest has claimed a total 45 lives and spread to strikes at other mines, leading to a police clampdown in a bid to restore order and salvage the country’s lucrative mining sector.

On Friday the miners rejected Lonmin’s first offer to break the deadlock at Marikana. They claimed Lonmin offered an entry level hike of 986 rands.

South Africa’s president, Jacob Zuma, warned Monday that the gold and platinum mines have lost $543 million to forced stoppages this year, which could pushed the country into recession.