(Recasts first paragraph; adds comments from Codelco, union
SANTIAGO Dec 16 Workers at Chilean state-owned
Codelco's massive Chuquicamata copper mine accepted on Friday an
early wage deal, putting to rest what some industry insiders had
feared could be prolonged, tense talks and even the threat of a
The wage talks at Chuquicamata, one of Codelco's largest
operations, are seen as a bellwether for the industry and a
precursor of contract discussions due at Chile's other copper
mines in coming months, including at BHP Billiton's
Escondida, the world's largest.
Union leaders and Codelco confirmed that the six unions at
century-old Chuquicamata had accepted the offer, which will be
good for 27 months and offers no salary increase but includes
per-worker bonuses of some 4.3 million Chilean pesos ($6,390).
"This is super encouraging for the future of Codelco, it is
a very good precedent," a Codelco spokesman said.
The per-worker bonus was less than half what workers
received when the last talks took place in 2012, when copper
prices on average were 40 percent higher.
Codelco, which is already cutting costs to put its finances
in order, had indicated it would maintain its recent policy of
zero raises and tighter bonuses.
Chuquicamata's collective contracts are due to expire in
February, but the company and workers kicked off the talks
several weeks ahead of schedule to allow time to try to reach an
Though workers did not get a salary increase with the new
contract, they negotiated to keep all the benefits they had
obtained in prior talks.
"Without a doubt the conditions we negotiated are very
favorable for us," said union leader Jaime Graz.
($1 = 673.3000 Chilean pesos)
(Reporting by Fabian Cambero and Anthony Esposito; Editing by