June 1, 2018 / 3:36 PM / in 20 days

BHP Escondida mine workers in Chile start new wage talks

SANTIAGO (Reuters) - BHP’s Escondida copper mine in Chile said on Friday the union representing its workers has kicked off the latest round of labor negotiations with a contract proposal that includes a bonus of about $34,000 per worker at the world’s largest copper mine.

FILE PHOTO: BHP Billiton Chief Executive Andrew Mackenzie is silhouetted against a screen projecting the company's logo at a round table meeting with journalists in Tokyo, Japan June 5, 2017. REUTERS/Kim Kyung-Hoon

The closely-watched talks come little more than one year after failure to reach a labor deal at the mine led to a 44-day strike that jolted the global copper market.

“The proposal is being evaluated by the company’s negotiation commission, and we have 10 business days to respond,” the mine said in a statement.

The price of copper on the London Metal Exchange has risen more than 50 percent since hitting a nine-year low in 2016, boosting profits globally and potentially providing unions more leverage in negotiations. The union has demanded a bonus equivalent to 4 percent of dividends distributed to shareholders in 2017, or about $34,000 per worker.

Workers at the mine last year decided to end the strike by invoking a legal provision that allows them to extend their existing contract by 18 months, through July 31, 2018.

The Anglo-Australian miner has until mid-June to respond to the union’s demands.

Direct talks between the union and the company are slated to begin in July.

Reporting by Fabian Cambero, writing by Dave Sherwood; Editing by David Gregorio

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