BOGOTA Colombia's Labor Ministry said on Friday it was calling an arbitration tribunal to settle a dispute at the local operations of U.S.-based coal miner Drummond, which have been shut down by 52 days of strike action.
"The decision ... implies the lifting of the strike declared at the said company," the Labor Ministry said in a brief statement on its website.
The stoppage has shut off about one third of production from the world's No. 4 coal exporter and has been the second major strike in Colombia's coal sector this year, cutting royalties revenue for the government and crimping economic growth.
Workers represented by the Sintramienergetica union are demanding a pay rise higher than the 5 percent Drummond has offered, a fixed monthly salary instead of by-the-hour pay and new jobs for port workers who are to be made redundant next January with the introduction of direct conveyor belt loading of ships.
The Labor Ministry said it took the decision to impose the tribunal in light of a vote by the majority of Drummond's roughly 5,000 direct employees in favor of accepting the company's offer and returning to work. Sintramienergetica said this week most of its members still wanted to keep striking.
A Sintramienergetica representative did not answer calls for comment, while a Drummond spokeswoman said the company would issue a statement later on Friday
(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Peter Murphy)