Two unions at Codelco’s Andina copper mine in Chile said on Wednesday they would walk off the job in less than 24 hours after rejecting the latest contract offer from the state-owned miner following a five-day period of government-mediated talks.
Copper prices have soared to record highs this year, handing unions in Chile additional leverage, ratcheting up tensions in labor negotiations and putting pressure on global supply of the red metal.
Members of the Industrial Union of Labor Integration (SIIL) and the Unified Workers’ Union (SUT) voted by 82% to reject Codelco’s latest contract offer, according to a joint statement, and to initiate a strike on Thursday morning.
The unions at Andina, which produced 184,000 tonnes of copper in 2020, voted down a previous contract offer in late July.
“This resounding rejection has been fundamentally motivated by the intention that the company has shown to remove historical benefits such as healthcare, while not taking ownership of improving social services for new workers, and ignoring the high price of copper,” the unions said in the statement.
Codelco, the world’s largest copper miner and a major earner for Chile, said it had made the best offer it could.
“The company faces a challenging commitment to achieve operational excellence and lower costs, to finance structural projects that will give it 50 more years of life and thus continue to contribute to the development of the country,” it said in a statement.
The Andina unions’ decision to strike came a day after workers at BHP Group Ltd’s Escondida copper mine in Chile, the world’s largest, struck a tentative agreement on a new contract, easing tensions there.
Codelco has failed to make progress in early negotiations with five unions at its flagship El Teniente mine. Workers on Wednesday rejected the miner’s latest proposal at El Teniente, saying disagreements remained on “fundamental” issues.
(By Fabian Cambero and Dave Sherwood; Editing by Peter Cooney and Stephen Coates)