South African Violence Returns As All Miners Demand Pay Hike

Rumors about the death of the South African miner strike seem to have been greatly exaggerated following the agreement by Lonmin to hike miner pay by 22%. The reason: the precedent has now been set and everyone else demands equitable treatment: i.e., the same pay hike as Lonmin agreed to. From Al Jazeera: "South African police have fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse protesters near a mine run by the world's biggest platinum producer Anglo American Platinum, as unrest spreads after strikers at rival Lonmin won big pay rises. Within hours of Lonmin agreeing pay rises of up to 22 per cent, workers at nearby mines called for similar pay increases on Wednesday, spelling more trouble after six weeks of industrial action that claimed more than 40 lives and rocked South Africa's economy." For those curious what it means when the precedent has been set and one corporation has caved on the issue of pay here it is: "Police clashed with a crowd of men carrying traditional weapons such as spears and machetes in a township at a nearby Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) mine outside the city of Rustenburg. Officers fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets to disperse an "illegal gathering", police spokesman Dennis Adriao said. He had no information on any injuries." So much for the strikes being over: thanks to Lonmin's caving, they have only just started.

"We want management to meet us as well now," an organiser for the militant Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (AMCU) at Impala Platinum, the second biggest platinum producer, told Reuters.


"We want 9,000 rand ($1,100) a month as a basic wage instead of the roughly 5,000 rand we are getting," said the organiser,  who declined to be named fearing recriminations from the firm.


A labour activist said workers who had stayed off the job at Amplats, which accounts for 40 per cent of global supplies of the metal used for catalytic converters in cars and jewellery, were inspired by Lonmin and would press on with their demands.


"The mood here is upbeat, very celebratory," Mametlwe Sebei, a community representative near Rustenburg, said. "Victory is in sight. The workers are celebrating Lonmin as a victory."


President Jacob Zuma expressed relief at the pay deal after criticism from the opposition and media of the government's handling of the crisis - not least in the aftermath of the police killing of 34 Marikana miners on August 16.


Further fueling union rivalry, jubilant workers at Lonmin's Marikana mine, 100km northwest of Johannesburg, painted the wage deal as a victory for AMCU over the dominant National Union of Mineworkers (NUM), an ally of the ruling African National Congress.

Naturally, this is all perfectly logical. Yesterday, when reporting the Lonmin news we said:

The question now is: how many laborers, miners and otherwise who have all the leverage in a world in which corporations have gradually fired virtually everyone but the absolutely muscle that drives corporate top and bottom-lines, will follow suit, and demand equitable treatment in a world in which the central bankers are hell bent on sending inflation off the charts.

The answer: everyone.

Our other question was just as rhetorical: "And what happens to aggregate prices if wages around the world suddenly receive a comparable 22% upward step-function? We will let you know as we find out."

We sure will.