SANTIAGO – Workers at Chile’s Escondida copper mine went on strike on Thursday to protest the layoffs of 120 operators, union leaders said.
The 24-hour job action at the world’s largest privately owned copper mine, located more than 3,000 meters (9,836 feet) above sea level in the northern region of Antofagasta, began at 8:00 am.
Mine operator Minera Escondida, controlled by Anglo-Australian mining giant BHP Billiton, said the layoffs affected 3 percent of the company’s workforce and were part of a plan to streamline its operations.
Escondida’s Union No. 1 said it regarded the layoffs as an intimidation tactic ahead of the next collective bargaining round scheduled for June 2018.
It noted that there had been a clear increase in production targets for the current fiscal year, “which is inconsistent with a reduction in personnel or operations.”
At the start of 2017, Minera Escondida lost more than $1 billion due to a strike that began amid a collective bargaining process and dragged on for 43 days.