A four-week strike organized by South African miners came to a close on July 28 after the miners reached an agreement with employers. The strike was led by the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union, and a total of 220,000 workers had gone on strike across the country.

The deal that was reached had a focus on finding an appropriate wage increase for the workers, particularly those that received the lowest amount of pay. Both parties eventually agreed upon a 10 percent three-year, fixed annual wage increase. This saw the lowest level workers getting an increase of R1,000 ($94) each month.

The strike started on July 1 and saw 220,000 people walk out of their jobs. It is estimated that around 12,000 companies were affected, most notably Toyota and General Motors. As a result, it was estimated that the engineering sector lost around R300 million (roughly $28 million) per day. South Africa‘s economy shrunk by 0.6 percent in the first quarter solely from the strike.

Both sides had initially reached a deadlock very early on in the process, forcing the South African Department of Labor and National Mediation Council to step in and assist with the negotiations.

The strike showcases the increasing power of unions in Africa as well as the fact that there are more players in the political scene than the one ruling party, the African National Congress. It also caused a massive rearranging in how various labor unions interact with each other.

Irvin Jim, General Secretary of the National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa, said that the end result was “a product of sweat and bitter struggles by our toiling workers for a living wage… and a four-week long resolute battle to do away with colonial apartheid-era wage dispensation in the engineering and metals sector.”

While the result of the strike is clearly a win for South African miners who were earning low wages, it remains to be seen how the strike will effect the political scene in South Africa or if the new wages will significantly increase the standard of living for mine workers.

– Andre Gobbo

Sources: BBC, The Guardian, Wall Street Journal
Photo: BBC