Ongoing Glencore walkout deemed legal

A WALKOUT that first began on July 19 at a coal mine in Colombia continues to drag on this week and has put the country’s market in jeopardy after a regional court in the country declared the strike legal.

Donna Schmidt

Miners at Glencore’s La Jagua complex walked off the job to demand higher wages and improved working conditions.

After more than 40 days, negotiations between Glencore’s Prodeco unit and the union have made no headway.

“Given what has happened we'll continue the strike,” Sintraminergetica union spokesman Ricardo Machado told Reuters, referencing the Valledupar court decision.

While the union wants to continue discussions with Glencore executives, the producer says the members of Sintraminergetica union are being inflexible.

Machado told Reuters that should the strike continue for more than 60 days, the Colombian government would establish a settlement committee and give three days to assist with a deal between the two.

If no settlement is made even after that effort, he said the labor ministry would set up an arbitration tribunal to bring the issue to a close.

The La Jagua complex in the Cesar province is made up of Carbones de La Jagua, Consorcio Minero Unido and Carbones el Tesoro, all held by separate arms of Glencore.

Combined, they produced 7 million tonnes in 2011.

Industry sources told the news service that the coal from La Jagua is of the highest quality across the Andean nation and, when not blended, was a niche market material.

The La Jagua strike is not the first in its history.

Just two years ago workers walked off the job for five weeks before inking a two-year deal.

Last year, crews went on strike for eight days at the Calenturitas mine.

Colombia is the world’s fourth largest coal exporter.

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