The world’s biggest platinum producers said on Thursday they had reached “in principle undertakings” with South African union leaders which could end a crippling strike.
Union leaders were to now seek a mandate from their members to accept offers on pay and conditions and if given “it will bring to an end the 21-week long strike,” Anglo American Platinum, Impala Platinum and Lonmin said in a statement.
Leaders of the the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) were meeting with union members Thursday, and the companies said they expected a response on Friday.
Local media reported around 17,000 workers had gathered at Impala Platinum near Rustenburg northwest of Johannesburg.
“The principles that underpin the proposals seek to achieve a sustainable future for the three platinum companies for the benefit of all stakeholders and to afford employees the best possible increase under the current financial circumstances,” the companies said.
“The companies expect to receive feedback from AMCU on Friday, 13 June. Thereafter, and should an agreement be reached, the companies will be assisting employees to ensure a safe return to a normal working environment.”
South Africa’s longest strike began when more than 70,000 workers downed tools on January 23, demanding that their basic salary be more than doubled to 12,500 rand ($1,160, 860 euros) per month.
Employers called the wage demand unaffordable, and a series of negotiations, including recent government intervention, have failed. Mining Minister Ngoako Ramatlhodi warned this week that the mines could close if the strike continued, throwing thousands of people out of work and cutting off a vital export.
South Africa holds around 80% of the world’s known platinum reserves. Full operations would not start immediately even if the walk-out was resolved, said Implats spokesman Johan Theron.
“It would take about three months but there is a risk that it could take longer.”.