Saturday, August 06, 2011

[olympiaworkers] Chilean miners strike and join wave of protest against government Aug 4 2011

Strikes in Chilean mines strengthen workers' struggles throughout the
copper industry, and reflect growing political unrest in Chile.

2,300 miners at Chile's Escondida copper mine - the largest in the world -
have been out on strike since 22nd July, and were joined by 7,000
contractors on 27th July. The mine is privately owned by Australian firm

Workers at Escondida are demanding a rise in monthly production bonuses,
and initially aimed for $11,ooo per worker to be paid out by the end of
the year. BHP have declared the strike illegal, as bonuses are
discretionary and fall outside the collective contract and strict
anti-labour laws in Chile prevent workers from striking outside of the
collective negotiating agreement. The union rejected BHP's offer of
$6,000, which has since been lowered to $5,600 per worker. The strike
continued, with the union lowering it's demand to $8,700, but BHP are now
refused to negotiate while workers are still downing tools. Today, the
union has put the $5,600 offer out to be voted on, and if accepted by the
workers, the strike will be over. The union is also demanding protection
for workers who contract work-related illnesses, removal of surveillance
cameras throughout the mine, and improved punch-clocks which monitor their
12 hour shifts.

The Escondida strike is yet another case of workers' struggle throughout
the mining industry in Chile and the rest of the world, as workers are
demanding their share of record profits. Workers in Zambia and Indonesia
have also been striking against private firms such as Anglo-American and
Freeport McMoran.

Industry bosses are keen to bring an end to the Escondida strike as they
fear a success for the workers here could fuel further strikes across
Chile. At another major Chilean copper mine, Collahuasi, workers staged a
24hr stoppage over the weekend in protest against anti-union measures,
pressure being placed on workers, and bosses attempts to negotiate with
workers outside of the collective union contract. Collahuasi workers have
previously held a 33-day strike in December 2010.

The state-run Coldeco mines have also seen their first walk-outs in over
20 years, prompting the increasingly unpopular President Pinera to meet
with union leaders and assure them that Coldeco will not be privatised.
Previous strikes at Coldeco saw sub-contractors demanding improved
conditions. Signs outside the Escondida mine are calling for the mining
industry to be re-nationalised.

The miners strikes form part of a wave of growing unrest in Chile, as
students and environmentalists have also been protesting against the right
wing Pinera government.

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