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Colombia Strike At Us Drummond Coal Mine In Third Day

Published by MAC on 2006-05-24
Source: Reuters

Colombia strike at US Drummond coal mine in third day

BOGOTA, Colombia, (Reuters)

24th May 2006

A strike by mine workers at Colombia's largest coal mine, operated by U.S. company Drummond Company Inc., has paralyzed production and exports for the third day, company officials and union workers said.

More than 2,000 unionized workers at the La Loma open pit mine in the northeast of Colombia are demanding a 25 percent pay increase while the company offered 7 percent, Raul Sosa, vice president of the energy and mining union, told Reuters.

"All can be negotiated. We have told the company that the salary increase is the least important, because what we are interested in is job stability," Sosa said in a telephone interview from the mine.

"This week is lost. We had told the company we didn't want to get to this point and we want to find an immediate solution," the union worker said.

The mine, which produced 22 million tons of coal last year, supplies the bulk of Colombia's 55 million ton annual coal production.

Coal sales represent the second-largest income from exports for Colombia, at $2.6 billion in 2005. The state receives revenue from exploration, but not from profits as the mines are owned by foreign operators.

"The strike brings grave consequences to the local economy. First of all, it affects the country's image as a secure and trustworthy coal supplier to international markets," Birmingham, Alabama-based Drummond said in a statement.

Mine employees are also asking for a high-risk pension scheme to cover the extreme work conditions with work days that last up to 16 hours, Sosa said.

They are also seeking higher pension contributions by Drummond, and retirement at 50 years of age with 10 years on the job as well as an increase in shifts and more compensation.

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