Workers at Escondida, the world’s biggest copper mine, stopped work on 22 and 24 September in support of demands for improved working conditions.
Escondida Union Number 1 called out its 2,800 members for 24 hours on both days, including all shifts and involving both miners and workers at the company port of Coloso.
"We took the decision in the light of the inflexible attitude of the Escondida management, which systematically breaks labour laws", said the union. The workers are against the extension of working time and want improved health and safety measures, including steps to protect against working at high altitudes.
The strike is a warning and an appeal for an end to breaches of the law and other irregularities. Union representatives met company executives on Wednesday 17 September and reiterated the need to address these issues. However, the meeting failed to produce any practical proposals to resolve the dispute anytime soon and so the union decided to continue with its plan to mobilize the workers and confirmed the strike call.
BHP Billiton has a 57.5 per cent controlling interest in the mine, while Rio Tinto has a 30 per cent stake. Rio Tinto mining operations are often the scene of major labour disputes and IndustriALL has emphatically denounced the company for its bad employment practices.