BHP Billiton Responds to Latest Proposal From Escondida Unionized Workers

Global miner BHP said this week that it had responded to the latest contract proposal from unionized workers at its Escondida copper mine in Chile, the worlds largest, triggering a new round of talks that could last a month or more. The unions proposal, filed with the company in early June, included a salary increase of 5 percent and a one-time bonus of $ 34,000, equivalent to 4 percent of dividends distributed to shareholders.

In a statement, BHP said it was now ready to discuss the n++different points of interestn++ at the negotiating table. The companys response marks the start of a final round of negotiations more than a year after an historic strike at Escondida in early 2017 shut down the mine for 44 days, jolting the copper market and depriving BHP of $ 1 billion in production.

Workers at the time opted to utilize a provision of Chiles labor law that allows unions to extend the previous contract for 18 months. Copper prices have increased by more than 50 percent since hitting a nine-year low in 2016, a favorable trend that could provide unions more leverage in negotiations. The union at Escondida said last Friday it saw a n++favorable scenarion++ for reaching a deal on a new labor contract with the company, citing, in part, higher copper prices.