Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Lengthy Chilean miner strike ends

One of the most notable stories of this past year was the rescue of 33 Chilean miners trapped underground for approximately 70 days. Though the media tended to focus on the human-interest side of the story, the incident also shined a light on the problems regarding the Chilean mining industry.

Weeks after the rescue at the San Jose Mine, employees at the Collahuasi copper mine went on strike. The trade union representing the workers at the world’s third largest copper mine sought an increase in wages and benefits. Despite government intervention both management and employees the strike that began on November 5th became the longest recorded at a foreign-owned Chilean copper mine.

Last week union and company representatives finally returned to the bargaining table and on Monday most of the strikers backed an agreement. After thirty-two days the stoppage finally ended and striking workers returned to their posts on Tuesday.

So was the strike worth it? It depends on who you ask; for instance, a spokesman for the mine’s owner claimed that operations were “normal” though it wasn’t specified what “normal” meant. Meanwhile, union President Manuel Munoz told the local press that the deal signified “a win for the union movement in Chile.” He may be right according to the terms of the deal:
The offer included a bonus of about $25,000, a 3.25 percent average increase in base salary and improvements in health, housing and education benefits.
Image- REUTERS/Fabian Cambero via Reuters (“Workers march in support of a strike of Collahuasi copper mine at Iquique city, some 1862 km (1156 miles) north of Santiago November 24, 2010.” The banner reads “Collahuasi (mining company) saved the 33 (trapped workers) and buries its 1531 miners.”)
Online Sources- The Latin Americanist, Reuters, Bloomberg, BusinessWeek

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