Tension continues in the copper sector

03 April 2017

The strike over worker benefits and the share in profits at Cerro Verde, the largest copper producer in Peru, began two weeks ago with 1300 of the 1650 employees downing tools. It was forced to end on 21 March once the Ministry of Labour declared it illegal, but the union immediately started a fresh strike the following day when talks did not yield results.The Vice Minister of Labour, Augusto Eguiguren Praeli, had come to Arequipa to take part in the talks. He subsequently reported progress on three of the workers’ demands, on supplementary benefits, but said that on profit-sharing there was no progress. http://larepublica.pe/impresa/economia/858220-viceministro-de-trabajo-no-pudo-solucionar-huelga-de-trabajadores-de-cerro-verde.The mine is controlled by the mining international Freeport-McMoRan.

Meanwhile, production is still running at 50% of normal, using other workers. http://gestion.pe/empresas/sindicato-cerro-verde-podria-continuar-huelga-hasta-abril-2185351. The issue of such non-union workers has become distressing and controversial, following the deaths of two such workers in accidents at the plant. The union is claiming that the company is flouting its own health and safety standards and demands a full investigation. http://elbuho.pe/2017/03/26/trabajadores-cerro-verde-mantienen-paralizacion-e-iniciaron-nueva-huelga/

The similar but longer-running strike (43 days) at BHP Billiton’s La Escondida copper mine in Chile ended this week, after talks failed and workers decided to invoke a little-used provision in the law, which allows them to extend their existing contract for 18 months, at which point there must be a fresh negotiation.

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