A sector in crisis should promote dialogue and cooperation instead of using the crisis as a pretext to get rid of acquired rights. This is IndustriALL Global Union’s message to Cerrejon, on the eve of a strike vote provoked by the company’s refusal to negotiate a collective agreement.
On 28 December, IndustriALL Global Union’s Colombian affiliate, Sintracarbon, began negotiating a collective agreement with Cerrejon Limited, a mining company owned by Anglo American, BHP Billiton and Glencore, which all have equal shares. As there has so far been no agreement the union is considering going on strike or referring the case to arbitration.
Negotiations stalled when the company announced that it wants to keep costs at the same level as last year and that it will only agree to a pay rise in line with the increase in the consumer price Index.
Cerrejon is also using the international crisis as a pretext to challenge acquired employment rights.
In a letter to the company’s president, Roberto Junguito Pombo, Jyrki Raina, IndustriALL feneral secretary, said:
IndustriALL Global Union is very aware of the seriousness of the crisis in the mining sector. The workers are not to blame for this crisis, but they are the ones who are suffering most from its impact.
I urge the company to avoid a strike and return to the negotiating table to seek a mutually acceptable solution.
Sintracarbon says it has always been ready to ensure both workers’ interests and the company’s profitability. The union wants productive negotiations and a fair deal for both parties. However, given the company’s refusal to continue negotiating, the union this week decided to ballot its members for action.
“Between 26 February and 3 March, the workers must focus their energy, maintain solidarity and remain resolute in the democratic process of deciding between the legal options of going to arbitration or taking strike action”, said the union.
The union’s list of demands covers pay, education and health, such as the right to health care and recognition of occupational ill-health. The union also wants decent working conditions for the high percentage of outsourced workers employed at the mining complex.