South Africa

South African Miners Still Angry

Wage increases don't fix underlying problems

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MARIKANA, South Africa—Several thousand protesters, holding sticks and iron rods, followed men in green T-shirts as they made their way past cement-block homes to the platinum mine of Lonmin PLC. The men shouted orders. The crowd obeyed.

"We are going to make those with strong skin soft," shouted one of the protest leaders this month. That was a threat of beatings, or worse, for those who went to work while their colleagues walked out.

In the end, the green T-shirts—worn by members of an upstart labor union—hit pay dirt. On Tuesday, after a six-week work stoppage, Lonmin management agreed to wage increases of as much as 22%, starting Oct. 1, plus a bonus once its staff returns to its platinum mines. The increase was more than double what trade unions typically have secured. Miners on Wednesday danced in the streets, blowing whistles and waving in celebration the sticks that had once served as makeshift weapons. They are expected to resume work on Thursday, ending a bloody illegal strike that claimed 45 lives.

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