Colombian coal miners working for Alabama-based Drummond Co. voted to go on strike after five weeks of salary negotiations stalled, a union leader said Monday.
A majority of workers at Drummond’s two coal mines in Colombia, Pribbenow and El Descanso, both in northern Cesar province, decided to go on strike after their union and the company couldn’t reach an agreement, Raul Sosa, the president of the mines’s union, told Dow Jones Newswires.
“The strike might start any day after Wednesday at midnight,” Sosa said.
The union has 10 days after the vote to start the strike. “If there is an agreement before, we would call off the strike,” he added.
The company offered a pay raise of inflation plus three percentage points for this year and wants to settle a three-year deal. The company also offered miners a one-time premium of 7 million pesos ($3,600), Sosa said.
The pay raises aren’t enough for the miners, the union leader said.
The unionized workers also demand an improvement of safety measures in the open pit mines and the port through which the company exports all its output.
Sosa said over the past year three workers died in accidents.
Augusto Jimenez, the chief executive of Drummond’s Colombian operations, didn’t return a phone call seeking comment.
On May 6, Drummond said its offer is an attractive one for the workers and asked them “not to forget they have an excellent job, with the best wages and benefits to be found in Colombia.”
Chairman Garry Drummond said last year that the company expects to extract and export about 30 million tons of coal in 2010. The Drummond family controls the company.
Sosa said Monday, however, the company’s output target for this year is now 35 million tons.
Coal is Colombia’s second-largest legal export, following oil and processed oil products. Coal sales abroad brought in $5.42 billion in 2009, up from $5.04 billion in 2008. Colombia is the largest coal exporter in Latin America. (Inti Landauro / Dow Jones)