South Africa: We Have Role to Play - Unions

While miners at Lonmin secured a 22 percent pay rise, the settlement does not resolve lingering questions about union rivalry at the heart of the ... ( Resource: South Africa: Despite Lonmin Deal Inequalities Remain

Rustenburg — Trade union officials insist that unions still have a vital role to play in the mining sector, despite Lonmin workers independently obtaining a 22 percent increase.

"Unions are still valid, we have a role to play," National Union of Mineworkers negotiator Eric Gcilitshana said on Tuesday night at the signing of an agreement ending the violent Lonmin platinum mine strike in Marikana, Rustenburg in the North West.

He said after the strike that workers had a right to choose which union they wanted to join.

Workers at Lonmin went on strike on August 10 in demand of a R12,500 monthly wage. The strike was also thought to be about a struggle for representation between the NUM and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).

The workers elected a committee to negotiate for them. Throughout the strike, workers criticised the NUM, which is the majority union in the Rustenburg-based platinum mines. They said they had lost confidence in the union.

The strike turned violent and 45 people were killed. It also spread to other mines including the chrome mine in Rustenburg, where workers also rejected union representation, choosing to negotiate for themselves.

Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa said he strongly believed that unions had a role to play in the workplace.

He said unions had contributed to the agreement signed to end the Lonmin strike.

"The agreement confirms Amcu's value of not entering into any agreement without proper consultation," he said.

Lonmin workers were expected to return to work on Thursday, after accepting their employers' offer of pay hike.

In terms of the agreement, the lowest paid worker will earn R9883 a month and the highest, R13,022. They will also be paid a once off R2000 bonus if they return to work on Thursday.

Lonmin workers expect to earn minimum pay of R12,500 in the next two years.

Molefi Pheme, one of the workers' leaders, said they were happy with what they had achieved, despite losing some of their co-workers during the strike.

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