Workers at Codelco protest layoffs amid coronavirus pandemic

Image: Codelco

Workers at Chile’s state-run Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer, took to the streets on Monday to reject layoffs announced by the sprawling mine company during the coronavirus pandemic.

Leaders of the Federation of Copper Workers, an umbrella group that represents the company’s unions, toted banners and chanted “No more layoffs in a pandemic” and “Enough of layoffs and persecution against women” outside company’s headquarters in the capital Santiago.

“It is not acceptable that Codelco, the principle [state-run] company in our country, execute mass layoffs,” the FTC said in a statement read during the protest. “It should be an example of protecting employment, today more than ever.”

Codelco declined to comment.

The FTC said that the miner had used the pandemic as a pretext for privatizing some divisions, and outsourcing functions to contractors. The group said it also feared the endowment fund that underwrites pension plans might be reduced.

Some mining companies – including Codelco – have announced that they will offer early retirement plans to workers to adapt to the new demands imposed by the coronavirus pandemic. But unions have alleged workers are being pressured to leave the companies.

Following the demonstration outside Codelco’s offices, the union leaders walked to the Presidential Palace, several blocks away, to deliver a letter addressed to President Sebastián Piñera warning him about the situation.

Pinera’s mining minister, Baldo Prokurica, has repeatedly called on companies to exhaust all other options before laying off workers during the pandemic.

(By Fabian Cambero and Dave Sherwood; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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