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Striking South African miners cool on new wage offer

Tens of thousands of striking platinum miners in South Africa appear poised to reject a new pay offer from firms Thursday, but their union said talks would continue.

Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin — the world’s top three producers — on Wednesday offered a wage increase of at least seven percent each of the next three years.

But Jimmy Gama, treasurer of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), suggested that workers were unlikely to approve the offer when it is put to them on Thursday.

“We did not get what we want,” Gama said. “It’s not 12,500 ($1,150),” he said, referring to the union’s demand for an increased minimum monthly wage.

“But it’s upon our members to decide whether they accept or not.”

In the country’s platinum belt, 27-year old Excellent Khinase vowed to stay at home until the union’s demands were met.

The talks will resume on Friday after union members have weighed in.

Mine bosses have meanwhile appealed to AMCU and its members “to give the new offer favourable consideration.”

“Extended strike action will have severe consequences not only for the industry, but also for employees and their dependents as well as for the country as a whole, with no prospect for gain,” the three firms said in a statement.

They insist their new offer is will eventually result in the workers’ demand of 12,500 rands, “but in a manner that is affordable and sustainable to the industry”.

A one-off offer of the workers’ demand “is simply not feasible in the foreseeable future,” the statement said.

The strike, which began last Thursday, is costing the three mining firms up to $9 million (6.6 million euros) each in lost production per day.

About 80,000 workers affiliated with AMCU downed tools last Thursday in a walkout that they expected would pile more pressure on the troubled industry and the economy.

The companies have warned that previous strikes, rising operating costs and a sharp drop in platinum prices have led to the loss of about 11,000 jobs since December 2011.