Codelco unions federation rejects privatization proposal

SANTIAGO, July 28 (Reuters) - Workers at state-owned Chilean copper behemoth Codelco have rejected a suggestion by a coalition partner of President Sebastian Pinera that the company be sold off to fund the response to the coronavirus pandemic.

An internal document attributed to the far-right Independent Democratic Union (UDI) party and leaked to Chilean media suggested the privatization among a series of measures to raise money for the fiscus.

But the Federation of Copper Workers (FTC), which groups together unions of the world’s largest copper miner, firmly rejected the measure.

The union would “bring Codelco to a halt before accepting any privatization attempt,” the FTC said in a statement.

The debate over the privatization of Codelco has been extensively debated by different groups over the years without conclusion.

The UDI internal document highlighted that the company, nationalized in 1971 by the socialist president Salvador Allende and which now turns over all of its profits to the state, in 2014 had a market value of about $50.5 billion.

“Privatizing the company would generate a very relevant income for the state, which could be used for social benefits. Moreover, privatization could continue generating income for the state through the collection of taxes and royalties,” the document said.

The Chilean government has announced a series of social measures to support poor and working-class Chileans since the outbreak of the coronavirus in March, worth an estimated 12% of gross domestic product. Chile has recorded some 350,000 cases of the coronavirus and more than 9,000 confirmed deaths. (Reporting by Fabian Cambero; writing by Aislinn Laing; Editing by Leslie Adler)