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South Africa’s metal workers call off major strike

South African striking engineering and metals workers have accepted an improved wage offer to end the country’s largest-ever labour stoppage, their union said Monday.

Representatives for the roughly 200,000 workers who downed tools on July 1 said the lowest-paid worker will get a 10 percent pay increase each year for the next three years.

“The settlement offer has been overwhelmingly and unanimously accepted by our members,” Irvin Jim, general secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA), told reporters, adding that workers will return to their posts on Tuesday.

The increase is above the inflation rate of 6.6 percent recorded in June.

The NUMSA — the country’s largest union, representing workers across several sectors — had originally sought wage increases of up to 15 percent in a one-year deal.

Employers’ representatives welcomed the end of the strike.

“We are immensely relieved that the strike is finally over,” Kaizer Nyatsumba, chief of the Steel and Engineering Industries Federation of Southern Africa (SEIFSA) said.

The strike was costing the industry an average 300 million rand ($28 million, 21 million euros) a day.

Auto makers Toyota and General Motors had reported disruptions to production due to a shortage of components.

South Africa’s supply of building materials had also been affected by the strike, slowing down work at construction sites across the country.

The work stoppage hit an estimated 10,500 companies worth an aggregate four percent of economic output, threatening the country’s already stuttering growth.

The South African economy shrank in the first quarter amid a five-month-long strike in the country’s platinum mines that pushed the country to the brink of a recession.

The metal workers’ strike had kicked off just days after the end of the walkout by some 70,000 platinum mine workers that was only resolved last week.

South Africa’s annual growth has been on a weak streak in recent years, slowing from 3.6 percent in 2011 to 2.5 percent in 2012 and 1.9 percent last year.