SANTIAGO Dec 7 Workers at BHP Billiton-owned
Escondida, the world's largest copper mine, expect to present
the company with their proposal for a new collective contract
and begin wage talks later this month, a union leader for the
Chilean mine said on Wednesday.
"We expect by mid December to officially present the company
our collective contract proposal, which is now ready after a
long consultation process that allowed us to include the main
demands of workers," said Patricio Tapia, president of
Escondida's main union. The union represents 2,492 workers.
Wage talks at Escondida -- which is controlled by BHP
Billiton with a 57.5 percent stake, while Rio
Tinto owns 30 percent -- are seen as a benchmark
for the copper industry at large.
The last wage talks four years ago, when copper prices were
considerably higher, ended with Escondida offering each worker a
bonus worth some $49,000, the highest ever offered in Chile's
"It is a union that represents over 95 percent of the
company's workers and as such there is no doubt that the results
of the process that will start in coming days will mark the path
of other negotiations in the mining sector in 2017," said
Gustavo Tapia, the head of Chile's Mining Federation umbrella
Wage talks have already begun at Chilean state-owned
Codelco's Chuquicamata copper mine, also seen as a bellwether
for the industry and a precursor of other contract negotiations
due in coming months.
(Reporting by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Marguerita Choy)