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South African miners turn down deal

A deal to end the miners' strikes in South Africa is yet to be agreed, with a key union refusing to come back to work. The miners want a pay rise, but their employers refuse to discuss it until after an accord is signed.

Key players in the South African miners' strike movement have turned down a deal to end demonstrations, a worker representative and intermediary said on Thursday.

Some unions backed a peace agreement with mining firm Lonmin to return to work at the company's strike-hit Marikana platinum mine and cease demonstrations. But non-unionized workers and the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU), an influential union, whose cooperation is imperative to ending the dispute, have refused the deal as it stands.

"AMCU, the union that is new in that sector, was not willing to sign the peace accord," mediator Bishop Jo Seoka said in an interview with the AFP news agency.

"Ultimately late at night [on Wednesday] it was signed by the the government and other unions. That is the Labour Department, NUM (National Union of Mineworkers), and Solidarity and UASA," Seoka said.

"We cannot agree to sign that thing. It shows once you sign the workers must resume work. But we know the workers won't return," non-unionized workers' representative Zolisa Bodlani also said.

Wage questions unanswered

The peace accord that has been put to workers does not address workers' wages. Miners have pushed for Lonmin, the third largest platinum producer in the world, to pay them 12,500 rand ($1,479) a month, triple what they currently earn. That increased monthly salary would still equate to less than the current price of an ounce of platinum on the open market. Lonmin has said it would only discuss salaries after a peace agreement.

The strike has now entered its fourth week and could seriously damage London-headquartered Lonmin, which accounts for 12 percent of global supply of platinum. Just of four percent of its shift workers reported for work on Wednesday.

The action by the miners has also sent ripples of anxiety through the gold secto. South Africa is the fourth-largest producer of gold.

sej/msh (Reuters, AFP)