By Jack Kimball
BOGOTA Feb 15 Colombia's largest coal exporter,
Cerrejon, and its striking union will meet again on Saturday in
search of a deal to end a week-long walkout by thousands of
workers, the union said.
Laborers at Cerrejon, a joint venture between BHP Billiton
, Anglo American and Xstrata, went on
strike on Feb. 7, the first in two decades, after failing to
reach an agreement over wages and benefits.
The two sides met for the first time since the strike on
Friday in the northern Guajira province and decided to continue
talks on Saturday, said Sintracarbon union president Igor Diaz.
The Labor Ministry mediated the talks between company and
union officials. Negotiations will resume on Saturday at 9 a.m.
(1400 GMT), Diaz said in a message on Twitter.
"I will bring from our organization every effort to seek an
agreement, we expect the same attitude from the company," he
The last time Cerrejon had a strike was in the early 1990s.
In 2011, laborers at Cerrejon voted to strike but reached a deal
with the company before walking off the job.
Cerrejon produced 34.6 million tonnes of coal last year, 4
percent more than expected. It exported 32.8 million tonnes, 2.5
percent above its goal, in 2012.
"Cerrejon confirms its willingness to resume negotiations
with Sintracarbon (union) to enable a new collective bargaining
agreement 2013-2014 and put an end to a strike that has caused
great harm," the company said in a statement late on Thursday.
The strike has added to problems in the coal industry, which
has been hit by a suspension at Drummond, the second-largest
exporter, a night-time ban on coal transport at the main railway
and a dispute at a mine owned by a Goldman Sachs affiliate.
In total, about 85 percent of Colombia's daily coal
production has been shut down as a result, according to
calculations by Reuters and industry sources.