MAC/20: Mines and Communities

CHILE

Published by MAC on 2007-06-26

CHILE

Codelco subcontract workers to intensify protests

Source: Reuters

26th June 2007

SANTIAGO, June 26 (Reuters) - Subcontracted workers at Chile's Codelco said on Tuesday they would intensify protests at the giant copper miner, even as the government pledged legal action against workers who burned buses a day earlier.

On Monday, protesters blocked roads and set fire to buses close to mines owned by state-owned Codelco, denting production at one mine as they demanded higher salaries and improved working conditions.

Media images showed the burned husks of 10 coach buses sitting on a mountain road after day-long protests near Codelco's Teniente mine, the world's largest underground copper mine. Workers also rolled large boulders onto the road leading to the mine.

"The government has issued instructions for the governor of Region VI to file a criminal complaint regarding the crimes that were committed yesterday (Monday) with the burning of the buses," said government spokesman Ricardo Lagos Weber.

Workers doing jobs like catering, driving buses, clearing earth and maintaining machinery at Codelco mines say their protest is across Codelco's five divisions, although there were no blockades early on Tuesday. "We are going to intensify the strike," said Cristian Cuevas, a spokesman for the newly formed Confederation of Copper Workers (CTC) that comprises 30,000 subcontracted workers at Codelco.

The subcontractors had threatened strikes for weeks across the five divisions of state-owned Codelco, which produces about 1.8 million tonnes of copper per year.

They are demanding higher wages and improved working conditions to reflect increased Codelco profits. Codelco, which employs 14,000 full-time unionized workers, says it is in no position to meet their demands because it does not employ the subcontracted workers.

Protests have so far only had a minimal effect, and only at El Teniente, 80 km (50 miles) south of Santiago. Teniente produces around 430,000 tonnes of copper per year, around a quarter of Codelco's total output.

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