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Escondida outcome seen as disaster for BHP as workers return

Author: source: Datetime: 2017-04-24 17:01:03

Escondida outcome seen as disaster for BHP as workers return

 

SANTIAGO – The end of a historic strike at Chile's Escondida copper mine, the world's biggest, has left its owner, BHP Billiton, nursing an estimated $1-billion loss and probably in a weaker position for negotiations in a year or so, company and industry insiders said.

 

On Thursday, the 2 500-member union at the mine decided to end the strike after 43 days by invoking a legal provision that allows it to extend the old contract by 18 months.

 

Workers will begin the gradual job of getting Escondida up and running again from Saturday, in a tense atmosphere and with little resolved for either the union or BHP.

 

The resolution will be a relief for the Chilean economy, which analysts say may contract this quarter for the first time since 2009 due to the strike. Escondida produced some 5% of the world's copper last year and the resumption of output will also ease supply concerns.

 

Workers told Reuters on Friday they were satisfied with the result. Although they lose out on any signing bonus or pay rise, the extension means they get to maintain current working conditions and benefits, which Escondida wanted to change. Their position in 2018 will also be stronger, thanks to new labour laws in Chile coming into practise next month.

 

Workers told Reuters on Friday they were satisfied with the result. Although they lose out on any signing bonus or pay rise, the extension means they get to maintain current working conditions and benefits, which Escondida wanted to change. Their position in 2018 will also be stronger, thanks to new labour laws in Chile coming into practise next month.

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