Chile: miners and support workers strike

Burning buses used to blockade roads at El Teniente

Seeing record prices for raw materials and record profits for mining companies, workers in Chile are demanding better wages and conditions.

Submitted by jef costello on July 7, 2007

At the Collahuasi mine in Chile, one of the world's largest copper mines workers have given notice of a strike to begin Monday, they are demanding an 8% pay increase whereas management has only offered 1%, they are also asking for health and education benefits and a housing stipend.

Management has subsequently offered 3.5% and increased bonuses. Hernan Farias, president of the mine's union, aid after negotiations: "It's a long way below what we're hoping for. It doesn't get us to where we want to be" adding "discussion is stuck on various points. I think a strike will be inevitable to get them unstuck"

28000 sub-contracted workers at Codelco, Chile's largest mining company have been on strike since June 25th. The workers, who are involved in catering, transport and maintenance blockaded the roads to Chuquicamata in the north and El Teniente, south of Santiago. At the latter site some 8 buses used to transport mineworkers were burnt, causing some shifts to be cancelled.

On June 28th 140 strikers seized Radimiro Tomic mine for 12 hours. Management claims that during the twelve hour occupation, which ended voluntarily workers destroyed security equipment and offices, stole computers and damaging some mining equipment. They have filed criminal charges against the union.

Codelco has agreed to negotiate on working conditions but has refused to discuss salaries as it is not the workers' direct employer. The strike action has cost the company $30M so far, with almost $10M being lost at Radimiro Tomic.

Last month miners at Radimiro Tomic won a pay rise 3.7% above inflation after workers had threatened strikes and blockades.