14 Sep 2012

South African miners reject latest pay offer

10:00 pm on 14 September 2012

Striking South African workers at the troubled Lonmin mine have rejected a fresh offer from management to end the five-week-long industrial dispute.

The miners, who are supported by an unofficial union, made their decision at a rally on a hill near the mine on Friday, the BBC reports.

The strikes have been marked by violent clashes, including the shooting dead of 34 miners by police in August. Production has been severely hit, with several mines closed.

The miners said the proposal envisaged a pay rise of just under 1,000 rand a month - far lower than they were demanding. Miners currently earn between 4,000 and 5,000 rand.

Protest leaders have threatened to launch a general strike if their demands are not met. They are supported by the militant Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu).

The National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), which is allied to the ANC-led government, told the BBC that it was concerned about the high level of violence and job losses in the mining sector.

In response to the threat of a general strike, the government placed its military on high alert - the first such move since democracy came to the country in 1994.

The strike began at the Marikana mine in August and 10 people, including two officers, were killed as the dispute turned violent days before the police opened fire.

Besides Lonmin, several thousand men have downed tools at top world producer Anglo American Platinum, which was forced to close its four Rustenburg mines this week, Reuters reports.

The price of platinum, a precious metal used in jewellery and vehicle catalytic converters, has spiked more than 20% since the Marikana shootings amid fears of prolonged disruption to supplies.

South Africa is home to 80% of known supplies.