Chile's Escondida mine workers reject labor offer, to vote on strike

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - Workers at Chile’s Escondida copper mine, the world’s largest, have rejected the company’s final contract offer and agreed to vote on whether to go on strike, according to an internal union document seen by Reuters on Friday.

After several meetings in recent days, the workers at the mine owned by BHP concluded that the company’s offer does not meet union demands and creates “prejudicial” labor conditions, according to the document. Chile is the world’s largest producer and exporter of copper.

The vote will begin on Saturday and continue through the middle of next week. That comes just over a year after a 44-day strike at the mine last year that jolted global copper markets and harmed economic growth in the South American country.

“In all the meetings, members overwhelmingly voiced their desire to reject this offer and vote on a legal strike,” the document read.

The company’s final offer, presented to workers this week, had included a $27,700 signing bonus for each worker, and a salary adjustment to link wages to inflation.

That offer, which is equivalent to roughly 18 million pesos, also includes a one-time payment as compensation for the end of a housing benefits plan. That amount was less than the 23 million pesos unionized workers received in a previous negotiation in 2013.

Reporting by Antonio de la Jara; Writing by Luc Cohen; Editing by Shri Navaratnam