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South Africa Truckers to End Strike as Gold Miners Fired

About 15,000 striking South African truck drivers will return to work tomorrow after employers agreed to raise wages by at least 10 percent, as gold miners were fired for being part of an unauthorized stoppage.

Three transport unions agreed that strikes will end at 4 p.m., according to a statement by the Road Freight Employers’ Association. Drivers will return tomorrow, said Tebogo Masango, an administrator at the Transport and Allied Workers’ Union. Gold One International Ltd. said it fired 1,435 workers over a wildcat strike that started Oct. 1 at its Ezulwini operations.

A spate of strikes at South African platinum mines spread to other metal producers and industries after Lonmin Plc agreed to pay increases of as much as 22 percent, four times the inflation rate in August. About 46 people died in violence that erupted during a six-week stoppage at Lonmin’s Marikana mine.

“It is no surprise that the strikes are spreading and we expect to see most sectors affected by some form of action this year,” John Meyer, a Fairfax IS Plc analyst in London, said in an e-mailed response to questions. South Africa’s rand may weaken further as exports are disrupted and as some companies say they are unable to make deliveries because of strikes, he said.

The rand rebounded from a 3 1/2-year low against the dollar, gaining 1.3 percent to 8.7797 at 2:56 p.m. after the news that truck drivers were returning to work, the first increase in five days. The rand has slumped 4.8 percent since Oct. 2 as strikes spread to other areas of the economy.

Fuel Shortage

The return of transport drivers will ease the threat of a fuel shortage, MC Lamprecht, chairman of the 900-member South African Petroleum Retailers’ Association, said by phone from Johannesburg. “At one stage, we had to get by with only a third of the truck drivers.”

A fourth transport union said its members remain on strike. The South African Transport and Allied Workers’ Union, which represents about 30,000 drivers, won’t resume work and will continue talks, spokesman Vincent Masoga said by phone from Johannesburg.

The three unions who agreed to halt their stoppage did so after winning “double-digit” increases, the freight employers association said.

About 400 workers went on strike at Xstrata Alloys South Africa’s Eland platinum mine, the latest operation affected by the walkouts, the company said yesterday. Xstrata is engaging with employees through the National Union of Mineworkers, the country’s biggest union, Christopher Tsatsawane, a company spokesman, said in an e-mail today.

Gold, Coal

Gold and coal producers are discussing wages with unions in a meeting today, Elize Strydom, chief negotiator for the country’s Chamber of Mines, said in a phone text message. The chamber, an industry body that negotiates wages with unions on behalf of gold and coal producers, won’t reopen its agreement with workers due to end in June next year.

“We are honoring our agreement,” Strydom said.

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