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Major strike at Escondida mine, Chile

10 February, 20172,500 miners at the Chilean company Minera Escondida, owned by the Australian multinational company BHP Billiton, began a legal strike on 9 February after negotiations with the company broke down.

We are starting what is perhaps the most important trade union struggle that our country has seen in recent times. (…) We must carry on this legal strike until we get the recognition we deserve and stop this company offensive

the union told its members.

The miners want a 7 per cent pay rise, an “end of negotiations” bonus of 25 million Chilean pesos (about US$38,400) and equal benefits for existing and new employees.

However, the company’s offer did not include a pay rise, cut some benefits, proposed clauses that discriminate against new employees and offered a bonus of eight million pesos (US$12,300). The company claims that in order to remain sustainable, it cannot agree to a pay rise, given the fall in the international price of copper.

The company said it would suspend production for the first 15 days of the strike because it could not guarantee the safety of the rest of the workforce, which depends on work carried out by operational and maintenance staff.

IndustriALL Chile – CONSTRAMET – affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union, said it shares and supports the union’s just aspirations for the collective agreement and rejects the intransigence shown by the company, which is using the “crisis in the price of copper” as an excuse:

We wish you success in this tough battle, we extend our support and solidarity and understand that both success and failure will have an impact on the entire working class.

Escondida is the biggest privately-owned copper mine in the world, with annual production of about one million tonnes.