SANTIAGO Nov 9 Most unionized workers at
Chilean state copper producer Codelco's massive Chuquicamata
mine have voted to start early labor contract negotiations, a
union source told Reuters on Friday.
The labor contract at world No. 1 copper producer Codelco's
Chuquicamata, which produced around 443,000 tonnes in 2011, is
set to expire on Feb. 28.
Rapidly dwindling ore grades at century-old, emblematic
Chuquicamata have prompted Codelco to transform it
into an underground operation, which will lead to job losses.
Union willingness to hold earlier talks with the company
suggest a new pay deal could be brokered without incident,
though Chuquicamata workers have in the past staged labor
action. During the former contract negotiation in 2009-2010, the
mine's union staged a two-day strike.
"We're expecting that there will be the beginning of an
agreement within the first 15 days of December," Jaime Graz, the
treasurer of Chuquicamata's No.1 union, told Reuters. "As long
as we can successfully get the best for the workers, I don't see
a big problem in reaching an agreement."
Copper output from the world's top producer Chile was hit in
2011 by a surge in labor action, bolstered by record prices for
top export copper.
The three main unions involved in the negotiations have over
5,100 members, according to Graz. Three other smaller unions
should also join talks.
Union leaders are fine-tuning the key issues for
negotiation. They're aiming to clinch an over 40-month long
contract compared with the former 38-month long deal, Graz said.
"We're open to talk and negotiate all points, except the
health plan," he added.