Unions at Chuquicamata copper mine ask Codelco to resubmit offer

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Unions at Chile’s Chuquicamata mine have asked Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer, to resubmit the offer their workers voted down last weekend, a union leader said, amid a nearly two-week strike that has docked output from the sprawling copper deposit.

FILE PHOTO: The Codelco El Teniente copper mine, the world's largest underground copper mine is shown near Machali, Chile, April 11, 2019. REUTERS/Ernest Scheyder/File Photo

The three main unions at Chuquicamata, which make up 80 percent of the workforce at the mine, voted down Codelco’s offer on Saturday, and said it failed to meet key demands.

Liliana Ugarte, president of Union No. 2, told Reuters the company had yet to respond to the workers’ request that the offer be resubmitted.

“They haven’t responded because they want to present us a less generous offer,” Ugarte said.

Codelco declined to comment.

Chilean law says the state miner may present another offer five days after Saturday’s union vote.

The deal rejected by workers maintains previous benefits, including a bonus and loan options of as much as $20,000 per worker and strengthens details of the worker’s retirement plan.

Unions have said the new retirement perks are not enough. Many workers contend it still does not meet their demands for better healthcare coverage and equal treatment of new and current workers.

Chuquicamata, or “Chuqui,” one of Codelco’s key copper deposits, faces a challenge to maintain output as the open-pit mine undergoes a complex $5 billion-plus transformation into an underground shaft mine.

The overhaul has meant job cuts in some areas of the mine, making relations tense with workers.

Reporting by Fabian Cambero; Writing by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Bill Trott