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Striking S.African mineworkers defiant on wage offer

Published on 30/01/2014

South Africa's platinum mineworkers crowded into a stadium near the mining town of Rustenburg on Thursday in a defiant mood following a new wage offer from employers hoping to end a week-long strike.

Anglo Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin– the world’s top three producers — have proposed wage increases of at least seven percent for each of the next three years.

But members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union appeared set to reject the deal.

They filed into the stadium singing songs dismissing greedy mine bosses and with some brandishing sticks.

“We hear that the employers still do not want to give what we want,” said Lonmin employee Zenzo Mathale.

“The companies don’t get it,” he said. “They only want profits. Things can’t go on like this… but we are prepared to fight.”

An estimated 80,000 workers downed tools last Thursday, prompting the government to call talks between the union and the top three mining firms.

The union has called for a basic monthly minimum wage of 12,500 rand ($1,150), around double the current amount.

It is the same demand that spurred 2012 strikes, which resulted in the police shooting dead 34 miners on one day.

“Our demand is very clear, we want a living wage, nothing else,” said Amos Letsi. “People died for this, no one listens.”

Letsi said the strike was also hurting the workers as they were not getting paid for staying away and were going hungry.

Mine bosses who have shut down operations have appealed with the union to consider the offer, saying its demand was “simply not feasible in the foreseeable future.”