July 8, 2013 / 10:28 PM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 1-Drummond to resume pay talks with Colombia coal miners

* Both sides to give talks another try from Thursday

* Union to decide on strike or arbitration meanwhile

BOGOTA, July 8 (Reuters) - Workers at Drummond’s coal mining operations in Colombia will resume wage talks with the company from Thursday after the parties failed to reach an agreement by a weekend deadline, the company said in a statement.

The union representing Drummond’s miners said earlier on Monday it will hold an assembly within 10 days to choose whether to strike or put their case to arbitration, but further talks in the interim now offer some hope of a negotiated solution.

“Both sides have expressed their intent to continue with the dialogue, as a result of which negotiations will resume from Thursday,” Drummond’s statement said.

Workers are demanding a wage increase and fixed monthly pay rather than hourly wages that can lower their earnings when shifts are shortened, as well as improved safety conditions and better health benefits.

Drummond, Colombia’s second largest coal miner, said its offer of a 3.8 percent pay rise in the first year, and a one-off bonus of 3.7 million pesos ($1,900) went above and beyond the requirements of an established labor convention.

Union demands for a pay rise of 10.7 percent and a one-off bonus of 7 million pesos among other demands were “totally out of the company’s reach” and “enough to destroy the financial stability of any mining operation in the world”, it said.

But Edgar Munoz, a leader at the Sintramienergetica union described the company’s offer to Reuters as “ridiculous” and “below workers’ expectations”.

Drummond and Sintramienergetica had already extended talks for a further three weeks in mid-June after failing to reach an agreement but further negotiations proved fruitless when that period ended on Sunday night without a deal.

Colombia is the world’s fourth biggest coal exporter. Workers at rival coal miner Cerrejon held a month-long stoppage earlier this year over pay, which ended after wages were increased by 5.1 percent.

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