April 4, 2017 / 11:28 PM / 4 months ago

Peru's Southern Copper workers demand profit share to avoid strike

2 Min Read

LIMA, April 4 (Reuters) - Southern Copper should share more of its profits with workers in Peru to avoid an indefinite strike at its Toquepala and Cuajone mines starting on April 10, a union leader said on Tuesday.

If confirmed, the strike would follow labor disruptions at Peru's biggest copper mine, Cerro Verde, and Chile's Escondida, the world's largest copper mine, earlier this year.

Southern Copper Chief Executive Oscar Gonzalez told Reuters in an interview on Monday a labor agreement with workers was still in force and the company was not planning to give them a bigger share of profits, although it would seek agreement through dialogue.

Southern Copper, owned by Grupo Mexico, boosted its copper output by 21 percent to 900,000 tonnes last year on the back of an expansion at a mine in Mexico.

Raul Urere, part of a union that represents 2,200 workers at the Cuajone and Toquelapa mines and the Ilo refinery, said this year workers received between 13,000 soles ($4,000) and 16,000 soles in profit share, less than the 40,000 soles they received last year.

"We hope that this is resolved by dialogue and not through a measure of force," Urere said. "If not, we will use our right to strike. We are also looking for better medical care and other improvements at work."

The union threatening to strike is one of five representing Southern Copper workers in Peru, the world's No. 2 copper producer after Chile.

Toquepala and Cuajone, both in southern Peru, together produced some 310,000 tonnes of copper last year, according to government data.

"The price of copper improved last year and so did production but we have not had better wages," Urere said.

$1 = 3.25 soles Reporting by Marco Aquino; Writing by Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Bill Trott

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