BOGOTA, Aug 20 (Reuters) - The largest workers union at
Colombian coal mine Cerrejon said on Thursday its members voted
overwhelmingly in support of strike action after contract
negotiations between the two parties collapsed.
Some 99% of votes were cast in favor of strike action, the
Sintracarbon union said, after extended talks over contract
negotiations ended without agreement almost two weeks ago.
Despite the decision, Sintracarbon wants to continue talks
in search of an agreement said union president, Igor Diaz, who
requested the involvement of Colombia's labor ministry.
"We are willing to hold talks as long as necessary, to look
at possibilities," Díaz said in a virtual press conference.
Cerrejon, which is owned equally by BHP Group,
Anglo American and Glencore, said it respected
the decision by workers but called on the union and workers to
re-examine the offer.
"The company...reiterates its willingness to build an
agreement based on the offer presented," Cerrejon said in a
Sintracarbon had demanded a 6% salary increase in addition
to health, education and housing benefits. Cerrejon offered an
increase equal to inflation for 2020 and 2021.
Colombia had 3.80% inflation in 2019. The central bank
expects inflation to end this year between 1% and 2%.
The union accuses Cerrejon of looking to cut costs by
freezing, reducing and eliminating employee benefits.
Cerrejon employs more than 5,500 workers, including 4,600
Sintracarbon had previously threatened job action this year.
In March, it pulled back from launching a pre-approved strike
and withdrew demands regarding pay raises and other benefits.
The last strike at Cerrejon in February 2013 lasted 32 days.
Last year, coal prices fell to an average of $51.40 per
tonne from $82.50 in the previous year, according to Colombia's
The Andean country is the world's fifth-largest coal
exporter. The fuel is its second top source of foreign exchange
Sintracarbon now has 10 working days to begin the strike.
(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta, Julia Symmes Cobb and Oliver
Griffin; Editing by Sandra Maler and Aurora Ellis)