Chile's Escondida mine, union will talk longer; hope to avert strike
Aug 14 (Reuters) – The union for Chile's Escondida mine, the world's largest copper mine, said on Tuesday it was closer to a contract agreement and would extend talks another day with the company in hopes of averting a planned strike, though health benefits and some other sticking points must be ironed out before a deal can be reached.
The union and the company reported early Tuesday that they agreed to extend government mediated negotiations for at least one day, in a last-minute effort to avert the strike.
"Having extended for another day speaks of a positive agreement being reached. The company has also given a positive sign of progress, we are closer," said Carlos Allendes, spokesman for Escondida's Union 1.
Despite the extension, Allendes stressed that key issues for workers, including health benefits, remain in dispute, risking the chance of an agreement.
If company and union leaders reach a consensus, the mediation would be further extended for several days so the 2,459 workers can vote to accept or reject the new offer.
The tense negotiations are underway just over a year after the failure of a labor agreement that led a historic 44-day strike in Escondida, which shook the world copper market and left huge economic losses in Chile.
(By Antonio de la Jara, Felipe Iturrieta and Cassandra Garrison; Editing by David Gregorio)