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Platinum firms, Amcu to seal the deal

Amcu says its wage deal with platinum producers will be signed today.

Amcu President Joseph Mathunjwa raises his hands triumphantly at the Royal Bafokeng stadium near Rustenburg as miners agree to sign a wage agreement on 23 June 2014. Picture: Reinart Toerien/EWN.

RUSTENBURG - The signing of a wage deal between the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu) and the world's top three platinum companies will take place today to mark the official end to the five-month long strike.

Thousands of workers accepted the companies' latest proposal on Monday.

The miners had embarked on a work stoppage in January for higher wages and have now agreed to settle for a minimum R1,000 salary increase.

The action halted mines that normally account for 40 percent of global platinum output and hit the country's overall GDP, pushing it into contraction in the first quarter of the year.

The strike cost the industry over R23.4 billion in lost earnings.

It was also mentioned by ratings agency Standard & Poor's as one of the reasons South Africa's credit rating was downgraded.

There's still some uncertainty around where the official signing ceremony will take place.

But Amcu's leadership says it will happen today and details of the entire agreement will be explained.

Amcu President Joseph Mathunjwa, who was praised by mineworkers on Monday for leading the strike, said the settlement should be celebrated across industries.

"Everyone should be joyful that at the end of the day the settlement agreement was reached and was welcomed by an overwhelming majority of our members."

Amcu has secured an increase of at least R2,000 extra for all their members for the next six months due to the backdates agreement.

But questions remain around the call for looming retrenchments to be put on hold.

Watch: Mine strike a victory for the working class?

FURTHER BATTLES

But while Amcu members and the three platinum producers are breathing a sigh of relief, the mining union has warned it's ready to take up further battles against changes to labour laws and possible restructuring.

Although thousands celebrated after the union presented its three-year wage hike, many economists have warned their victory may be short lived as restructuring, job cuts and possible amendments to the Labour Relations Act are now on the cards.

Mathunjwa says platinum mineworkers should celebrate his union's settlement but he has expressed concerns about proposed amendments to the Labour Relations Act, which gives government the power to forcefully end strikes.

"We have to fight it because if you change those laws you are simply challenging the Constitution of our country."

Mathunjwa says the union is also wary of looming restructuring at mines.

"That's a challenge that we've got. But why can't we celebrate what we have right now?"

Mineworkers are expected back at work on Wednesday.

Meanwhile, there are warnings it will take more than five years for mines to recover financially from the effects of the strike.

Labour economist Loan Sharpe says there's little to celebrate.

"This is an outrageous situation. It should have been resolved through the courts. This is a clear case where judicial activism could permanently change and improve our labour relations."

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