MAC: Mines and Communities

Striking Mexican Miners Call On Fox To Intervene

Published by MAC on 2006-04-04
Source: Reuters

Striking Mexican miners call on Fox to intervene

by Chris Aspin, MEXICO CITY (Reuters)

4th April 2006

Striking Mexican miners and steel workers on Tuesday called on President Vicente Fox to intervene in an 11-day-old dispute that has helped propel copper prices to all-time highs.

The mining and metal workers' union said it will insist on the "direct and personal intervention" of Fox to uphold the legality of the strikes and for an embattled union leader to be recognized as its representative.

Strikes at Grupo Mexico's giant La Caridad copper mine in the northern state of Sonora and at other mining units of the company received the support of steel workers this week.

Steel workers at mills in western Mexico, including the Sicartsa and Mittal steel complexes, walked off the job on Monday.

The union said in a statement that all the strikes would continue despite a Labor Ministry communique declaring the steel mill strikes illegal.

"The Labor Ministry clarifies that in this case the strike movement is not valid," the ministry said in a statement. It said the stoppage was illegal because workers had not followed procedures before going on strike.

The ministry made no comment on the stoppage at La Caridad, where miners walked out on March 24. Grupo Mexico has said the strike is illegal and wants to win a court order to stop it.

The union wants the government to recognize as their representative former union boss Napoleon Gomez, who the government has accused of corruption.

The government now recognizes a rival union leader and the row over Gomez has stymied negotiations between Grupo Mexico and some 2,500 striking copper miners and other workers at its facilities.

There are still no talks scheduled to resolve the dispute because of the disagreement over who should represent the workers.

The copper miners have vowed to continue their stoppage unless Gomez is recognized as the union leader.

On Saturday, employees at a nearby Grupo Mexico lime plant in Sonora joined the strike. Workers at a Grupo Mexico silver and zinc mine in Zacatecas have been on strike since February 28.

The employees are demanding new contracts and better working conditions after an explosion at a coal mine in February killed 65 miners in northern Mexico. But negotiations have stalled over their allegiance to Gomez.

The La Caridad strike has helped propel copper prices to all-time highs. La Caridad produces around 140,000 tonnes of copper concentrates per year.

Mittal's (ISPA.AS: Quote, Profile, Research) (MT.N: Quote, Profile, Research) Lazaro Cardenas steel mill in Michoacan state produces 4 million tonnes per year. The Sicartsa plant is part of the same complex but owned by Mexico's Villacero.

(Additional reporting by Monica Medel)
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