The walkout at Cerrejon, which is equally owned by mining giants Xstrata PLC (XTA.LN), Anglo American PLC (AAUKY, AAL.LN) and BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP), is costing the company millions of dollars a day as its northern mine that normally produces 100,000 tons of coal a day sits idle. The company’s 5,000 workers, meanwhile, are without a paycheck.
Colombia’s government has been pushing both sides to reach a solution, especially because exports are also frozen at the country’s second-largest coal producer, Birmingham-based Drummond Co. Environmental authorities shut down Drummond’s port operations Feb. 6 after a Drummond barge dumped hundreds of tons of coal into the Caribbean in choppy seas but took more than a week to notify the government. The company said it “regrets” the incident and is waiting for its port license to be reinstated.
In all, 78% of Colombia’s coal exports are frozen, which has driven up prices for the mineral in Europe, as Colombia is among the world’s top five coal exporters.
The strike at Cerrejon, whose open-pit thermal coal mine is in the isolated La Guajira region near Venezuela, is mostly over wages, but health care is also an issue. The union says, for example, that there aren’t enough provisions in the contracts to ensure long-term care to workers seriously injured on the job.
Neither side spoke to the other during the first week of the strike, the first at Cerrejon in 22 years. But hopes arose for a solution when the union, Sintracarbon, and company officials agreed Friday to start negotiations.
Juan Carlos Restrepo, head of public affairs at Cerrejon, said Monday the union negotiators showed no desire over the weekend to iron out a compromise agreement on the key issues. “They don’t want to reach a deal. They want to strike,” Mr. Restrepo told Dow Jones Newswires by telephone, adding that for now, talks are again suspended.
If no deal is reached within 60 days, the dispute is sent to an arbitration panel whose decision is binding.
Mr. Restrepo said that with the union apparently unwilling to compromise, the company suggested both sides agree to send the dispute to arbitration sooner, perhaps by the end of this week.
But Igor Diaz, the head of the Sintracarbon union, said Monday the union rejected that proposal because it doesn’t fit within the workers’ legal right to strike for up to 60 days if a deal isn’t reached.
Read more: http://www.foxbusiness.com/news/2013/02/18/colombia-coal-strike-enters-12th-day-after-weekend-talks-fail/#ixzz2LGs4UcRE