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Platinum miners return to work

Amcu members return to work this morning for the first time in over five months.

Hundreds of mineworkers going back at work at Lonmin's Rowland shaft in Marikana on 25 June 2014. Picture: Govan Whittles/EWN

JOHANNESBURG - The platinum belt in the North West is a hive of activity this morning as thousands of members of the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union ( Amcu) return to work for the first time in over five months.

Amcu leadership and mine bosses on Tuesday signed a three-year settlement in Johannesburg yesterday, bringing an end to the crippling strike.

The union reached a deal with the world's top three platinum producers on Monday.

A photograph of a wage agreement between Amcu and platinum mines, 23 June 2014. Picture: Govan Whittles/EWN.

'DEAL A VICTORY'

The workers are expected to undergo medical tests at their workplaces before production resumes.

There's been a steady stream of hundreds of workers emerging from surrounding townships to report at Lonmin Platinum's Rowland shaft in Marikana this morning.

Many of them say there is a jovial mood in their communities following the settlement which Amcu president Joseph Mathunjwa has described as dignified.

"As a trade union, we believe this is a dignified settlement to this impasse and will be a pedestal towards a living wage in the sector."

Mathunjwa said it's now up to the companies to deal with administrative issues and resume production as soon as possible.

Some of the men are already dressed in their white overalls with reflective jackets.

Mathunjwa said the protracted industrial action conclusively shows that workers are the true custodians of South Africa's economy.

"It has been a gruelling process that has yielded successful outcomes, transforming the sector to be worker-driven.

"We've improved trust during the wage negotiations and it's an ongoing process as trust must be earned."

He added although the deal was downplayed by platinum companies, it was a victory for workers.

ECONOMY

The rand on Tuesday rallied against the dollar following news the platinum strike ended, taking the local currency to its strongest level in two weeks.

The rand had added to earlier gains as commodity-linked currencies took heart at positive factory data from China, a major South African export destination.

The platinum miners had embarked on a work stoppage in January for higher wages.

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.

Although thousands are celebrating the end of the strike, 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.