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Chuquicamata miners engage in solidarity strike

SANTIAGO – Unions 1, 2, and 3 of state mining company Codelco went on strike to protest layoffs. The strike began Monday early morning at the world’s largest open pit copper mine Chuquicamata in Chile’s Antofagasta region. If demands aren’t met, workers threaten to strike indefinitely. In a sharp response, Codelco claims the strike is illegal and disturbs law and order.

Early on Monday, Codelco miners began a strike due to the dismissals of two colleagues. Unions 1, 2, and 3 from the Chuquicamata copper mine, in Antofagasta region, want the workers rehired and also demand a forum through which unions get more influence in management matters. Moreover, they demand the implementation of rule NCh 3262, which mandates gender equality and balanced labor and family time.

Should anybody lose their job due to the strike, the union threatens to sustain the stoppage indefinitely. Union leaders said in a statement that they have exhausted all instances to dialogue with the company, so strike remained the only option. The protesters blocked the mine entrances and started fires in the area. Codelco rejected the strike, saying according to news portal 24horas, “The divisional administration sharply rejects this illegal protest, which disturbs law and order, risks people’s lives, and hinders the normal development of business. Also, it contradicts the dialogue process the company is doing with its workers.”

Codelco maintains that the layoffs are legal under article 161, section 2 of the Labor Code, which mandates that reinstating fired workers doesn’t apply. Furthermore, the company said it has always been open to dialogue with union leaders, as the general management offered to meet with union leaders in Calama to discuss the corresponding role of each part.

In addition, the unions started voting on whether they will remain in the Copper Workers Federation, as the organization hasn’t supported their struggle. Mining minister Pablo Terrazas commented: “We ask for the dialogue, and for the searching of all instances to get an agreement. We have to be responsible with the country – and with the place they are working in.”

Last month, union workers protested the possible dismissal of around 1,700 workers, as their labor became supposedly superfluous with increasing modernization of the mining process. Specifically, the company aims to use conveyor belts instead of trucks to transport copper, which eliminates a significant amount of human labor, expenses – and opportunity to make a living.

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