Striking Miners Block Export Terminal in Chile

The loading terminal at Coloso (file image courtesy Municipalidad Antofagasta)

Union workers from BHP Billiton’s Escondida copper mine have blockaded the port of Coloso, Chile as part of a month-long strike over pay.

The strike began on February 9, and BHP has made three offers to settle the dispute, none of which have satisfied the Escondida Number One union, which has refused to return to the negotiating table. The union contends that management wants to reduce wages by 14 percent, lengthen the work day and introduce a different benefits system. According to Chile’s Diario Financiero, union officials recently sent a signal of their displeasure by burning a copy of an invitation to negotiate.

BHP has begun to bring in temporary labor to replace its 2,500 union workers, and it intends to slowly bring production back online. The union strongly objects to the use of newly recruited labor. “We roundly reject the various actions that the Escondida mine is taking to break the unity demonstrated by the members of the union,”…