Negotiations continued Tuesday between union workers and Cerrejon LLC, Colombia’s largest coal miner, in an effort to avoid a strike that could cripple coal exports.
Igor Diaz, the president of the Sintracarbon union which represents Cerrejon’s workers, said that the talks with the company continued on Monday and Tuesday. Starting Wednesday the union representatives will present the last offers made by the company to the workers, he added.
“There’s has been some progress and we notice a change in attitude but they haven’t really made any changes in the fundamental issues in the negotiations,” Diaz said in reference to the Cerrejon negotiators.
A strike at Cerrejon, equally owned by mining giants Xstrata PLC, Anglo American PLC and BHP Billiton, would hurt Colombia’s coal exports. Colombia ranks as one of the world’s top coal producers, with output at 76 million tons in 2010. Cerrejon’s coal exports in 2010 were 31.4 million tons.
The main differences remain focused on salary increases. Alvaro Lopez, the chief negotiator for Cerrejon, said that the company had increased its proposed salary hike to 6.3% from the previous 6% offer. The union, meanwhile, demands a salary increase of at least 7%.
“The negotiations are reaching a point where we’re both getting closer to an agreement,” Diaz said. After Tuesday’s negotiations, the union representatives are expected to present the renewed Cerrejon offer to the workers. If the workers reject the proposal, a strike could start on Feb. 5, Diaz said.