Copper price is close to US $ 4 and raises expectations of mining unions in the face of the upcoming collective bargaining

Yesterday it was quoted at US $ 3, 92, the highest value in almost nine years.

Leaders, advisers and executives agree that the metal situation could affect the payment of larger bonuses; However, it would not be the main axis to be discussed in the more than thirty collective negotiations scheduled for this year.

With the end of the holidays for the lunar New Year in China and the return to work of all the workers in the factories, the price of copper experienced a new rise, this time of 2.81%, which placed it at US $ 3.92 a pound, the highest price in almost nine years, more precisely since February 28, 2012.

Yesterday, new data was also released from the Asian giant, where the main stock index reached the highest value since 2007, which led to optimism in variables such as raw materials, including copper. The metal’s daily rise was the biggest in three months.

In this way, the country’s main export is making steady progress to overcome the barrier of US $ 4, which could happen in the short term. This is whetting the appetite of mining sins, in a year especially fraught with collective bargaining for the local industry, which will involve more than 20 thousand workers, including emblematic organizations, such as Minera Escondida or several Codelco sites, including the El Teniente Division, the most important of the corporation.

This position is shared by leaders and two advisers from mining unions, who agree that a culture of high bonuses has been generated in the local industry due to the higher price of copper, which is why they advance narrow processes and a challenging scenario for the mining industry . They add that, in addition, it is a pressure for the leaders themselves, since the workers will seek higher returns when they see a quote in historical prices.

“This is the same as when you have a good job and your salary goes up, everyone in the house wants to earn from the dividends we achieve. Logically, our partners look very favorably on this opportunity of such high prices to negotiate, but you have to look at the position of the company, because they always say they have to make the business profitable in 50 years, ”says the president of the workers’ union. by Minera Escondida, Patricio Tapia. He adds that the company already knows that they can withstand more than 40 days on strike, as happened in 2017, a standstill that even strongly impacted the country’s economy.

The BHP itself already warned, in its last delivery of results, that together with the possible effects of the pandemic there were pressures on the offer due to rounds of wage negotiations in the country’s mines that are scheduled for the year, which in the case of the Anglo -Australian includes Escondida, Spence and Cerro Colorado. For his part, the president of the El Teniente union, Alfonso Saavedra, says that they are aware of market volatility and “this is a good indicator for us, it serves us anyway; One asks the company that if it is as expected, that there will be better prices for several years, that it will give us more money if it is going to earn more these years, because the negotiation will last throughout the price peak ”.

The executive director of Plusmining, Juan Carlos Guajardo, explains that these prices raise the expectations of the unions, which adds to a turbulent year from the political point of view. But, on the other hand, the mining companies have much more cash, so there are resources to meet these demands.

“The question is what attitude will the miners have: to tackle these negotiations. In recent years a very intense cost control has been implemented; In the negotiations, it has been established not to permanently increase costs, so we have to see if it will be maintained, ”says Guajardo.

An experienced advisor to mining unions points out that it was the industry itself that taught that when the price of copper was through the roof, the bonds were millionaires, “this because, obviously, the income for the companies will be higher, which requires labor continuity for workers, because mining companies want to produce as much as possible. It is true that no bonus is associated with the price of copper, but it is associated with job continuity ”.

Of course, it is admitted that the greatest impact could come from the hand of the negotiation term bonuses, an instrument that seeks to avoid strikes, and not in the long-term bonus and benefits, which depend directly on productivity and the situation of each task.

A senior executive from one of the country’s main mining companies agrees on this, pointing out that the main incidence is in short-term payments, because efficiency and productivity indices are set under permanent conditions, but in any case, it is less effective.

“More than pressure, this requires discipline in the administration, to put the cards very clear from the first minute. This is a sign that there is money, but the price does not mark our strategy, more important is the reality of the company; As prices go up, they can also go down ”, he warns, and adds a new despite optimism, the country is still in a pandemic, with more than two million jobs lost and in a recessive scenario that will continue, so paying exorbitant bonuses like those seen years ago can be uncomfortable.


Both Minera Escondida and the El Teniente Division are two of the most productive sites in the country, and it is this background that their leaders will use to negotiate with BHP and Codelco, respectively.

“You ask when you generate, we have a price that depends on the market, we are going through a good time and we have to produce more to maximize income for the division and, therefore, for the country. Based on that we work. We are clear that in the 2020 results, El Teniente will contribute around 70%, so the price is important, but in the negotiation we have to look at the surpluses that we have generated, ”explains Alfonso Saavedra.

Meanwhile, from Escondida, the largest copper producer worldwide, Patricio Tapia points out that they will seek a “win-win, both parties know each other, we prove that we can have a 44-day strike, so the important thing is see what the company wants. We produced 12 million tons in 2020, that is, each worker produced 120 tons and the national average was 54, which reveals how profitable we are. At world level, there is no copper producer bigger than us, that is where our associates are located ”, assures the union leader.

Source: El Mercurio

Translated with Google Translator