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Sintracarbón ends collective bargaining dispute with Cerrejón

6 April, 2020IndustriALL Colombian affiliate Sintracarbón has withdrawn its list of demands from Cerrejón, ending the collective bargaining dispute and cancelling the strike approved by union members.

On 28 March, just two hours before the end of the ten-day deadline for setting the time of the strike at Carbones de Cerrejón Limited, owned by multinationals Glencore, Angloamerican and BHP, Sintracarbón announced that it was withdrawing its list of demands for the renewal of the collective employment agreement.

This means that the collective employment agreement for the 2018–2019 period will be extended until 30 June 2020. Under Colombian law, the union will be able to submit a new list of demands in May. The union says that it was not able to reach an agreement with Cerrejón during the 60-day negotiating period because the offer tabled by the firm would have reduced workers' benefits.

In a statement, Sintracarbón says:

"Cerrejón wanted to reduce the overall cost of the collective employment agreement by freezing, cutting and eliminating workers' benefits, many of which we had successfully fought for during previous campaigns."

The union had suggested possible ways of advancing the negotiations and proposed settlement options, but Cerrejón would not compromise. The union's negotiating committee withdrew the list of demands and cancelled the strike:

"The factors taken into consideration in our analysis of the current situation include: the public health crisis caused by coronavirus (COVID-19), mandatory confinement, collective vacation measures, Cerrejón's reduced operations, price declines and the company's cost-cutting approach.

Because of these factors, the strike would have benefited the company more than the workers. And under the circumstances, it would have been difficult to hold an on-site strike with verification by the Employment Ministry."

IndustriALL's assistant general secretary, Kemal Özkan, says:

“Sintracarbón has a long history of fighting for the rights and interests of coal miners, and given the crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic, this decision was a prudent one. We once again call on Cerrejón to act with common sense and to reach an agreement with Sintracarbon – one that meets the demands and expectations of union members."