The 12,000 platinum miners in South Africa who were fired three weeks ago for striking will be able to get their jobs back if they return to work by tomorrow, according to Anglo American Platinum (Amplats), the world’s biggest platinum producer.
The National Union of Mineworkers announced the reinstatement yesterday in a statement to Reuters.
“They agreed to reinstate all the dismissed workers on the provision that they return to work by Tuesday,” NUM spokesman Lesiba Seshoka told the Reuters news agency.
He said he expected workers would return to their posts and “that will mean the end of the strike”.
Amplats said in a statement: “Employees who do not return to work on Tuesday… will remain dismissed and/or be subjected to the illegal strike disciplinary action and will not be eligible for any of the benefits mentioned above.”
The benefit the company was referring to was a one-off hardship payment of $230 to facilitate their return.
The workers had been demanding $1,800 a month, more than three times their current average salary.
The firings have become a brutal way for the mining companies to deal with the conflict. Last week, about 8,500 striking workers were fired at the nearby Goldfields KDC East mine. In addition, bullion producer Harmony Gold and AngloGold Ashanti had promised to fire strikers if they did not return to work.
The conflicts at the mines erupted in August after police opened fire on a group of striking workers at the Lonmin mines in Marikana , killing 34 in a massacre that shocked the world. Last week, a judicial inquiry heard that 14 of the 34 murdered workers were actually shot in the back—debunking claims by the police that the miners were all charging them.
“All fatal projectile wounds were sustained from the back,” advocate Dumisa Ntsebeza told the Farlam commission at the Rustenburg Civic Centre, North West. “Those who were killed were unlawfully killed by SAPS [the SA Police Service],” he said in his opening remarks.
The unrest has rocked the nation’s economy and resulted in the serious decline of the rand, the South African currency. South Africa is the world’s biggest platinum producer and the fifth-biggest gold producer.
Miners typically earn the equivalent of $500 a month.
“We are mine workers and we are working in a dangerous job, and we earn nothing at the end of the month,” gold miner Maseti Masixole told Al Jazeera. “That is why we are on strike.”
The strike has affected a total of eight gold, platinum and chrome mines and has cost the industry 4.5 billion rand ($548 million) in lost output, according to South African President Jacob Zuma.