SANTIAGO Feb 7 The main union at BHP Billiton
Plc's Escondida copper mine in Chile, the
world's largest, said a contract agreement was unlikely unless
the company changes its negotiating stance on benefits.
In a news release late on Monday, the union said BHP had not
committed to a benefits scheme that places new and old workers
on equal footing. The union, which considers equality of
benefits key to any agreement, added that it tried to discuss
the issue with the company, which asked to put it off to the end
"We believe that the position that the company has
demonstrated up to now does not allow a solution to the conflict
to be seen," the union said in a statement.
BHP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The two sides on Friday started a five-day
government-mediated period of negotiations that the union is
legally required to attend. As no talks took place on Sunday,
Wednesday will be the last day of the negotiating period unless
both parties agree to an extension.
The possibility of a strike, which workers warn could be
lengthy, has pushed up global copper prices in recent days.
Escondida produced 1.15 million tonnes of copper in 2015,
about 6 percent of the world's total. It is majority-controlled
by BHP, with Rio Tinto and Japan's JECO
also holding stakes.
(Reporting by Gram Slattery; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)