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Chilean miners at Minera Escondida win million peso bonus

31 January, 2013Chilean miners will receive an unprecedented bonus of 23 million pesos (US$ 48,665) and a 5 per cent pay rise as part of an early conclusion to negotiations. The miners’ union said it was only right that the company should share its profits with the workers.

59.9 per cent of union members at BHP-Billiton-controlled Minera Escondida, the world's largest copper mine, voted in favour of accepting the company’s offer, which came ahead of the legally mandated deadline.

The bonus includes a 3.7 million pesos interest-free loan, a 4 million pesos 4x4 to 7x7 "shift change" bonus, a 2.3 million pesos dispute resolution bonus, a 6.3 million pesos "market conditions” bonus and a 6.7 million pesos early settlement bonus.

The agreement also includes a 5 per cent real pay rise and increases in quarterly and monthly productivity bonuses.

The new collective agreement will run for 4 years from July 2013. The previous one was in force for 44 months.

The size of the 23 million bonus has had a big impact on public opinion. Marcelo Tapia, president of union N°1, said he understood the resentment it has awakened amongst public opinion, but said the real problem was that Chilean employers were generally reluctant to share their profits with their workers.

Output at Minera Escondida, in which Rio Tinto has a 30 per cent stake, increased by 70 per cent in the second half of 2012 (221,900 tonnes) compared with the second half of 2011 (130,300 tonnes). The mine is on track to increase output by a further 20 per cent in 2013.