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Chilean BHP unions join forces to face challenges

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24 May, 2019The National Coordination of Unions for BHP Billiton in Chile will work with IndustriALL to strengthen the global network of BHP unions, aiming to protect workers’ rights in all countries where the company operates.

IndustriALL was invited the second meeting of the six unions of BHP’s Cerro Colorado, Spence and Escondida mines on 8 May, who form the coordination body.

“It has been a productive meeting; the coordination body is committed to help us strengthen the BHP global network, which consists of unions in Australia, Brazil, Colombia and Peru.

“From this network, they will seek to be acknowledged by the company and the chance to discuss global issues faced by workers in the different countries, in order for all workers to have similar or equal rights and conditions.”

said IndustriALL’s regional secretary, Marino Vani.

The coordination body explained the seven problems faced by BHP workers in Chile. A letter outlining the issues will be sent to BHP’s representative for the Americas, Daniel Malchuk, requesting a meeting:

1.    Administrative problems: delays of up to two months before obtaining responses, since the accounting headquarters are located in Malaysia and Singapore.
2.    Breaches of collective agreements: maximum working hours established by law are exceeded. Production bonuses are not payed correctly, as the company has failed to provide transparent information as to how that amount was reached.
3.    Excessive workload: 400 contract workers were replaced by 80 directly employed worker, meaning that 80 people have to do the work of 400.
4.    Dismissals caused by negative performance evaluations: evaluations have to be carried out in order to get promotions, but many workers have lost their jobs because of them.
5.    Lack of retirement plans: some unions do not have retirement procedures in place, and when employees are terminated by the company, they have to fight for their benefits.
6.    Occupational diseases: When BHP notices that workers are using the health care system a lot, they get terminated instead of retired.
7.    Ignorance regarding the company’s prospects: BHP does not inform workers about the mining company’s prospects for the future.

The spokesperson for the coordination body and leader of Union 1 at the Escondida mine, Carlos Allendes, said:

“We are calling for Malchuk to take responsibility for BHP’s Charter of Values. We request that he receives us and discusses these matters with us. We care for our company and do not intend to destroy it, as it is our source of work. Our intention is to be heard, to work together and to solve these problems.”

Vani said:

“If Malchuk refuses to have a conversation, we will carry out campaigns to get the company’s attention and put pressure on them to negotiate. There will be a global meeting with BHP workers in September, which will strengthen actions taken along with the workers, unions and the strategic sector both in Chile and the region.”