April 19, 2008 / 5:59 PM / 11 years ago

UPDATE 2-Chile copper strike keeps two Codelco divisions shut

(Adds Teniente returns to normal, new quotes)

By Manuel Farias

SANTIAGO, April 19 (Reuters) - A strike by Chilean mining subcontractors in its fourth day and denting output will keep state-run copper powerhouse Codelco’s Andina and Salvador divisions closed through the weekend, the firm said on Saturday.

Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer, said its Teniente division had resumed normal operations after a brief slowdown on Saturday due to a strike by subcontracted workers who argue windfall revenues from copper prices at record highs are not trickling down to them.

But the company’s Salvador and Andina divisions, which have been paralyzed since Wednesday in the latest in a series of sometimes violent protests by subcontractors, would stay shut until Monday, a company source said.

“They are still paralyzed,” the source said, asking not to be identified. They will remain shut on Sunday, she added.

Subcontractors from the Confederation of Copper Workers, which groups more than 30,000 workers at state-owned Codelco, began a company-wide strike on Wednesday to demand improved working conditions and pay.

Workers scuffled with police for a third day on Friday, pelting buses with stones and erecting roadblocks. Codelco in turn lodged legal complaints accusing some subcontractors of holding its staff hostage.

Codelco closed its Andina and Salvador divisions on Wednesday, citing safety concerns, but has said it has no plans to close its Codelco Norte division, which includes giant open pit mine Chuquicamata, or its Teniente and Ventanas divisions.

Andina, situated about 50 miles (80 km) northeast of the Chilean capital Santiago, produced 218,000 tons (tonnes) of copper in 2007. Salvador lies 685 miles (1,100 km) north of Santiago and produced 64,000 tons (tonnes) of copper last year.

Codelco suspended one shift at Teniente on Friday evening and another on Saturday morning, but said a skeleton staff kept the mine working at a slower pace. Teniente is Codelco’s second biggest division, located 50 miles (80 km) south of Santiago.

The Confederation of Copper Workers demands that Codelco fulfill agreements reached in July 2007 that ended a long, sometimes violent, strike for improved benefits and pay — and has vowed to continue striking until those demands are met.

Subcontracted workers want pay and benefits in line with those of Codelco’s 14,000 unionized employees who do the same jobs across its five divisions.

They also want the company to absorb 5,000 subcontract workers into its full-time ranks.

Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer, has annual output of about 1.7 million tons (tonnes). (Writing by Simon Gardner, editing by Philip Barbara)

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