SANTIAGO – The union representing striking workers at northern Chile’s La Escondida, the world’s biggest copper mine, said Tuesday it agreed to mediation in an effort to end the labor dispute.
The miners, who walked off the job last week, accepted a mediation proposal from the Regional Labor Administration.
Mediators, who will meet with the parties on Wednesday, will try to restart negotiations between labor and management.
“The decision (to accept mediation by the government) was made responsibly, thinking about the good of the country and the regional and national economy,” the union said in a statement.
Labor leaders will go to the meeting with the idea of having a positive outcome, “but we will only be able to make progress in this harmful conflict if the company respects our current compensation and benefits,” the union said.
Union leaders plan to meet in Santiago with the labor, mining and environment ministers on Thursday.
About 2,500 workers at the BHP Billiton-controlled La Escondida went on strike on Feb. 9 after union negotiators and management failed to reach a new collective bargaining agreement (CBA).
The union is demanding a three-year contract that, among other things, would include a 7 percent pay hike, a 25-million-peso ($38,460) bonus per worker and equal benefits for new operators.
But Escondida, which has been hit by a steep drop in global copper prices since the last CBA was reached four years ago, offered a four-year contract with a bonus of just 8 million pesos ($12,300) per worker, no wage increase and a reduction in some benefits.
La Escondida, the world’s biggest copper mine with average output of 100,000 tons of the red metal per month, is 57.5 percent owned by Anglo-Australian mining titan BHP Billiton.
London-based mining giant Rio Tinto and Japan’s Jeco Corporation have minority stakes in the mine.