Codelco workers to start demonstrations on May 1

Friday, April 29, 2011

Chilean state red metal producer Codelco's copper workers federation (FTC) agreed to start demonstrations on May 1 to defend job stability and the company from potential privatization attempts, a source from the federation told BNamericas.

"Workers have decided to take action against the management's unwillingness to take their opinions into account when making key decisions regarding the future of Codelco," said the source, who requested anonymity.

"The FTC's general council has to make an official announcement on how the demonstrations will be carried out following the decision, which was made at the federation's annual congress, held on April 26-28," the source added.

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Demonstrations will be held at all divisions and could include marches, delaying the start of shifts, partial stoppages at operations and several other actions that have to still be decided, according to the source.

The FTC will also continue meeting with representatives of congress and community organizations to explain the workers' view of the current situation and how management has been undermining its potential for real growth and possibly paving the way for privatization, the source said.

At the end of last year, Codelco carried out a retirement plan aimed at preparing the company for future development by reducing its payroll and improving efficiency in the face of ageing mines, lower grades and higher operational costs.

A total of 2,218 workers accepted the retirement plan and left the company, representing 11.4% of the 19,425-strong workforce.

Since then, workers have been complaining about management's intention to keep reducing the workforce, subcontracting tasks and services that should be done by contacted workers who are part of the core business, and putting in danger Codelco's status as a state-owned company, the source said.

Codelco is the world's largest copper producer. The miner needs to invest US$17.5bn within the next five years - mainly in four main projects - to avoid an output decrease to close to 800,000t/y from the current 1.7Mt/y by 2020.