SANTIAGO Feb 14 (Reuters) - Workers at Chilean state copper miner Codelco's central El Teniente mine narrowly rejected the company's early contract offer, deferring collective labor negotiations to October.
About 51.2 percent of workers at El Teniente turned down the contract offer which in addition to base salary, included a bonus and soft loans worth around $30,700, Codelco said in a statement late on Thursday. Soft loans are usually offered at very low or zero interest rates.
"Codelco will maintain dialogue with union leaders to pave the way to the October negotiations," the miner said in a statement.
Union leader Luis Gomez told La Tercera newspaper his organization wanted long-term benefits to be improved and all workers to have access to the same benefits regardless of when they joined the company.
Mining companies in Chile are increasingly offering sweetened deals to their workers to avoid strikes seeking a bigger share of a mining bonanza in the copper powerhouse.
Codelco is in a tight place at the moment, with global copper prices ebbing, cash running low and costs inching up.
El Teniente was the company's most productive deposit between January and September of last year, mining 327,000 tonnes of red metal in the period.