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35-day strike ends in agreement at Albemarle, Chile

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30 September, 2021The strike at the Salar de Atacama facility in Chile's Antofagasta region has ended after the union reached an agreement with Albemarle Corp, the world's leading lithium producer.

On 11 August, 135 members of CONSTRAMET went on strike to oppose a labour contract that discriminated against the plant’s most vulnerable workers and restricted union freedom. The workers protested and stood their ground, and it paid off.

An agreement was reached on 15 September. It contains a 11.5 per cent pay increase from 2018 levels, full pay for the month of September and an end-of-conflict bonus. It all includes all other aspects of the pre-strike agreement.

IndustriALL actively supported the strike and fostered a dialogue with Albemarle in order to break the deadlock and start fresh talks to come up with solutions to end the dispute.

Miguel Soto, regional secretary at CONSTRAMET and union advisor for the collective bargaining process, says:

"We are grateful that the workers, the Albemarle Salar union and our international network have taken such a firm stance. It has been a difficult, and at times tense, dispute. Albemarle has made several attempts to overrule the workers in the courts but each time has failed. Once the company understood that we would stand united and had international support, we were able to start a dialogue and move forwards.  
"We thank the indigenous communities, and especially the Peine community, for taking part in the struggle, providing support and standing with us. Our unity and solidarity are our strength – they have helped us to achieve victory and overcome our collective challenges."

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However, just when the workers thought that the dispute was over and that the company was ready "to heal the wounds and look to the future", as it had said, the workers found out that Albemarle is now taking the case to the employment courts, putting forward the same arguments that it had used before the Court of Appeals and that were rejected by the Supreme Court.

Faced with this abuse of power, the union will continue to fight for its rights in the courts. It would appear that the company is not that committed to the Initiative for Responsible Mining Assurance agreement, which it has promoted so much in talks with the international network.

IndustriALL's regional secretary, Marino Vani, says:

"Once again, our workers have stood together and shown that the struggle is worth it – we can earn respect and dignity by taking action. We congratulate CONSTRAMET for running and leading the campaign, for what the strike has achieved and for bringing workers and the local community together. We will continue to support this fight to bring justice to the workers. La lucha continua!"