January 20, 2018 / 3:33 PM / a month ago

Union at Colombia's Cerrejon coal mine to vote on whether to strike

BOGOTA, Jan 20 (Reuters) - The largest union at Cerrejon, Colombia’s top thermal coal mine, will begin a 10-day voting period this weekend to decide whether to strike following failed salary and benefit negotiations with the company, the head of the union said on Saturday.

Cerrejon, a joint venture equally owned by BHP Billiton , Anglo American and Glencore, produces about 37 percent of coal in Colombia, the world’s fifth-largest exporter of the mineral.

“The company’s offer does not satisfy our expectations and doesn’t end this labor dispute,” Aldo Amaya, president of the Sintracarbon union, told Reuters by telephone. “We will start voting among our members to decide whether we strike or go to arbitration.”

In talks on Friday, the company offered a 2018 salary increase of 5.9 percent, he said. The union has demanded 12 percent.

A source at the company, which employs 5,000 people, said Cerrejon was willing to continue talks over the next few days in the hopes of avoiding a stoppage.

If the union members decide for a strike, it could begin within 10 days of the Jan. 29 close of voting.

Production and exports at Cerrejon fell for the third straight year in 2017, when it mined 31.7 million tonnes of coal, as heavy rainfall affected operations, the owners said this month.

The last strike at Cerrejon, which produces coal at its open pit mine in northern La Guajira province, was in February 2013 and lasted 32 days. (Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn)

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