A labor dispute between the Cerrejon coal company and its striking workers will continue after both sides fail to reach an agreement regarding wage negotiations.
The Cerrejon mine located in the northern Colombian department of Guajira is the largest open-pit coal mine in the world and is responsible for approximately 5% of global coal sales. Workers went on strike in early February due to wages they deemed were too low and a lack of healthcare benefits.
The national coal miners union, Sintracarbon, initiated talks with the Cerrejon companies which are comprised of BHP Billiton Ltd., Xstrata Plc and Anglo American Plc and demanded an 8.5% pay increase for all workers. The coal mining conglomerate countered with a proposed 5% increase, which the union dismissed. Both sides later eased up on their demands. The union reportedly lowered their demand to 5.8% to which Cerrejon offered 5.1%. Nevertheless, talks were suspended by the coal companies on Sunday. Cerrejon reportedly decided to halt the talks because the conditions of a fixed deadline and an alternative exit strategy were not accepted by the union.
“Cerrejon regrets that under these terms the talks are suspended with Sintracarbón until there are conditions for a constructive dialogue,” read a company press release.
Union negotiators said they were surprised to receive news that the talks were suspended through various media sources. According to them, negotiators for the mining companies failed to show up to Sunday’s negotiations.
“In keeping with its desire to reach a fair and responsible collective labor agreement through direct negotiation… Sintracarbon has attended all instances of dialogue which it has been called to,” read the union’s press release.
According to Reuters, the strike has cost the Colombian economy approximately $3 million per day.
Sintracarbon started its strike on February 7 in order to strengthen their position to demand better compensation and work conditions. The union represents over 3,000 workers at Cerrejon Coal Limited, which makes up roughly 93% of the company’s total workforce. In a vote, nearly 97% of the union members agreed to go on strike.
Suspendidas conversaciones con Sintracarbón (Press Release)
Intransigencia de Carbones de Cerrejón Dificulta Negociación (Press Release)