Mining companies in the final stretch of their 2021 collective negotiations that today involve 7 thousand workers

Codelco faces regulated processes in two divisions and initiated an anticipated one in El Teniente.

Minera Escondida has a July 25 deadline to present its latest offer.

The intense schedule of collective bargaining in mining this year, which considered at least 37 processes, involving more than 20 thousand workers, begins to walk its final stretch. So much so, that it is estimated that there are currently at least 7 thousand workers who are in the process of their respective companies.

However, for experts, the scenario of trading in the last six months of the year looks more difficult than at the beginning of the year. This is evidenced, they say, in that -for example- since the avalanche of negotiations that were closed in advance previously, a period was passed where the possibilities of negotiating in a regulated manner are high.

Codelco is one of the leading companies when it comes to collective bargaining and in recent days it has taken concrete steps to reach agreements, aware of its situation.

After in March the Industrial Union of Labor Integration (SIIL) and the Unified Union of Workers (SUT) of the Andina Division rejected the final offer of the company in an anticipated process, opting for the path of a regulated negotiation, at the end In June, the administration delivered the response to the collective contract project to the organizations. Now the Union Plants Union is also under negotiation. All current agreements expire on July 31.

But, probably, one of the most complex tasks will be in the El Teniente Division, where the collective contract of five unions (Caletones, El Teniente, Nº7, Nº5, Sewell and Mina Unificado) expires on October 31. These processes alone involve around 3,345 workers. As confirmed by sources in the sector, discreetly but with the required authorization from the assemblies, the state and the organizations began an early negotiation last week.

Connoisseurs of the process reported that it was expected that, precisely, yesterday they would begin to address the most complex issues, since in the first week the dialogue focused on the presentations of the parties. In this case, the five unions negotiate as a single body, with a single collective project for all workers in the division of the Role B estate. The parties have until September 15 to close an early agreement.

In the Salvador Division, meanwhile, Union No. 6, which includes 517 workers, is also in full negotiation. Facing the end of the collective agreement on August 31, exactly a week ago it began the regulated negotiation presenting its list of requests and now it is waiting for the company to respond to the proposal.

Eyes on Escondida

Meanwhile, BHP faces the most anticipated negotiation of mining, after on June 4 Minera Escondida received the proposal for a collective contract from Union No. 1 of that mine, which brings together more than 2,330 workers. On June 14, the mining company delivered its formal response to the Negotiating Commission and since then the union has not commented on the status of the talks.

However, the countdown was activated, since this July 25 is the deadline for the company to present its latest offer. This step is relevant, because the process where the union has to legally respond to that offer is definitely activated, and state mediations can be activated if there is no agreement.

The union’s petition contemplates -for example- a salary increase of 5% and to be recognized with a one-time bonus equivalent to 1% of the dividends paid to the owners in the last three years. The negotiations, which have been carried out in complete secrecy, also have a context of high copper prices and high future demand that – as they advanced in previous statements – could be playing a key role.

The change in negotiations, according to experts

According to the executive director of the consulting firm Plusmining, Juan Carlos Guajardo, there was a change with respect to what had been observed at the end of last year and the beginning of 2021 in terms of how collective bargaining is carried out.

He explains that at the end of last year and at the beginning of this, there was a strong interest in anticipating negotiations, but that later it has moved more to regulated processes. “This is a pretty clear trend,” he says.

Along these lines, he emphasizes that the uncertainty that existed at the end of last year encouraged unregulated agreements. “The interests of companies and workers coincided more to reduce uncertainty, but already entering this year, the price (of copper) changes interests a little and we entered a different type of conversation,” he explains.
The price of copper, the political situation marked by the elections, the Escondida negotiation and changes in union leadership are some of the factors that may be influencing the current processes.

For the general manager of the DataLab labor consultancy, José Tomás Vicuña, “factors of the industry are combined, learning regarding the conjunctural of prices; and of the country, expectations about the social and economic situation of the country, at the time of closing early or without major conflicts ”.

Source: Diario Financiero