(Adds comment, background)
SANTIAGO, April 3 (Reuters) - Southern Copper Corp hopes to dissuade workers at its Toquepala and Cuajone mines in Peru from striking this month, as a second labor union this year in the world’s second-biggest copper producer seeks a larger share of profits.
The company’s chief executive, Oscar Gonzalez, said he did not think Peru’s labor ministry would give the green light for the strike, adding that the firm could hire contract staff to protect output if its workers went against the government.
“A union in a country that’s facing economic problems can’t paralyze a company and keep it from generating revenues for the state,” Gonzalez told Reuters, referring to Peru’s dampened growth prospects this year amid destructive flooding. “They’re the ones who are going to look bad.”
The union, one of five representing Southern Copper workers in Peru, plans to hold an indefinite strike starting April 7 or 10, according to a company filing with Peru’s market regulator.
Gonzalez said the labor agreement with workers was still in force and the company was not planning to give them a bigger share of profits, but it would seek agreement through dialogue.
Union representatives were not immediately available for comment outside regular working hours.
Last month, workers at Peru’s biggest copper mine, Freeport-McMoRan Inc’s Cerro Verde, downed tools for three weeks to demand a better share of mining profits after production at the mine doubled and global copper prices improved.
Gonzalez added that he hopes the government of Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, a former investment banker who took office last year, will issue a construction permit for its $1.4 billion Tia Maria copper project this year.
The proposed mine, which would produce some 120,000 tonnes of copper per year, was derailed in 2015 by local protesters who feared it would pollute a farming valley and deplete scarce water supplies.
Reporting by Mitra Taj; Editing by Michael Perry and Joseph Radford