Chile’s Escondida puts condition on attending strike talks

Chile’s Escondida copper mine, the world’s largest, said on Sunday that company representatives would attend government-sponsored talks with striking workers on Monday as long as the union did not interfere with a shift change for non-unionized employees.

Unionized workers at the mine controlled by BHP Billiton marked their 11th day on strike on Sunday after talks over a new labor contract broke down last week.

“If the entrance to Escondida Mine is blocked and as a result a shift change scheduled for 11 a.m. (1400 GMT) cannot occur, the company will not attend the meeting,” Escondida said in a statement.
The company said contracted workers had been allowed to access the mine in Antofagasta over the weekend. The union by law has to keep a minimum number of workers on site to ensure safety at the mine. Workers performing other tasks continue to enter and the company can hire temporary employees after 15 days.

A union member said striking workers were committed to attending the meeting scheduled for 3 p.m. on Monday. Both sides agreed to the meeting last week, but their demands remained far apart.

Escondida, majority-controlled by BHP with minority participation by Rio Tinto and Japanese companies including Mitsubishi Corp, produced over 1 million tonnes of copper, about 5 percent of the world’s total, last year.