| ANTOFAGASTA, Chile, March 21
ANTOFAGASTA, Chile, March 21 The striking union
at BHP Billiton's Escondida copper mine in
Chile, the world's largest, will meet with the company on
Wednesday to resume conversations, both parties said on Tuesday
In a letter sent to the members of the 2,500-member
Escondida union, labor leaders said they would meet with the
company in the hopes of putting an end to the 41-day strike, one
of the longest in the history of Chilean mining.
A company spokesman confirmed to Reuters that a meeting
would take place on Wednesday, adding that the time of the
meeting would be coordinated on Wednesday.
"It's possible that the solution to this negotiation could
take several days more, so as a consequence, every member must
keep alert for all scenarios," the union leadership said in a
letter sent to the rank-and-file and seen by Reuters.
Workers at Escondida walked off on Feb. 9, and copper
production at the mine has been stopped since, sending global
copper prices higher amid supply concerns.
Talks have been tense since then, and various attempts to
return to the table have failed. The two parties returned to the
table for the first time in weeks on Monday and agreed to hold
Throughout the process workers have maintained three key
demands: that the benefits in the previous contract not be
reduced; that shift patterns not be made more taxing; and that
new workers get the same benefits as those already at the mine.
In the Tuesday letter, the union leadership reiterated those
The union also reiterated that it was authorized to invoke
Article 369 of Chile's labor code if it deems appropriate, as
union members voted to give labor leaders that authority on
Sunday and Monday. Under that provision, the current
negotiations would stop, and the workers would go back to work
for 18 months under the previous contract.
The workers say that would allow them to start negotiations
again under new labor laws set to go into effect in April,
strengthening their hand.
Escondida is majority controlled by BHP, with minority
participations by Rio Tinto and Japanese
companies including Mitsubishi Corp. It produced
slightly over 1 million tonnes of copper in 2016.
(Reporting by Felipe Iturrieta; Writing by Gram Slattery;
Editing by Leslie Adler)