SANTIAGO Feb 7 The main union at BHP Billiton Plc's Escondida copper mine in Chile, the world's largest, said a contract agreement was unlikely unless the company changes its negotiating stance on benefits.
In a news release late on Monday, the union said BHP had not committed to a benefits scheme that places new and old workers on equal footing. The union, which considers equality of benefits key to any agreement, added that it tried to discuss the issue with the company, which asked to put it off to the end of negotiations.
"We believe that the position that the company has demonstrated up to now does not allow a solution to the conflict to be seen," the union said in a statement.
BHP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The two sides on Friday started a five-day government-mediated period of negotiations that the union is legally required to attend. As no talks took place on Sunday, Wednesday will be the last day of the negotiating period unless both parties agree to an extension.
The possibility of a strike, which workers warn could be lengthy, has pushed up global copper prices in recent days.
Escondida produced 1.15 million tonnes of copper in 2015, about 6 percent of the world's total. It is majority-controlled by BHP, with Rio Tinto and Japan's JECO also holding stakes. (Reporting by Gram Slattery; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)
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