Strike likely after Drummond, union talks stall

A STRIKE appears a greater possibility after negotiations between unionised Drummond Coal workers and the company made no headway late Thursday, according to a union negotiator.
Strike likely after Drummond, union talks stall Strike likely after Drummond, union talks stall Strike likely after Drummond, union talks stall Strike likely after Drummond, union talks stall Strike likely after Drummond, union talks stall

Courtesy Drummond Coal.

Donna Schmidt

Sintramienergetica union’s Cesar Flores told Reuters that a meeting between its members and Drummond officials achieved nothing – despite it being held a day after thousands of miners voted to strike for increased pay and benefits.

“The negotiations didn't advance an inch,” Flores said.

“The company's position was the same.”

Flores noted that, while no further negotiations had been scheduled, more talks had not been ruled out.

He told the news wire that union leaders were scheduled to meet privately with Colombian Labor Minister Rafael Pardo Rueda on Friday morning.

No information was available on that meeting late Friday.

“The most sure thing will be that he will ask us not to strike,” Flores said Thursday evening, noting that he did not have specific talking points and details of that meeting.

Should the strike action come to pass – workers could walk off the job as early as this week if no agreements are made – the country’s output could drop by about one third, just when traders are preparing to purchase winter season stocks.

The hit could be significant, as Colombia is the nation’s second largest coal producer and the fourth largest coal exporter in the world.

A walkoff would also impact the Andean nation at a time when it is attempting to increase economic growth that has been slumped so far this year.

It would not be the first strike for the coal-rich country in 2013. In February hundreds took part in a month-long strike at the Cerrejon complex for a similar cause.

The Sintramienergetica union has demanded a pay rise of 10.7% for this year and smaller increments in coming years.

Drummond’s largest offer was 4.5% plus incremental jumps in subsequent years to follow inflation.

Union vice president Edgar Munoz told Reuters Friday that the two were close to a deal on pay, potentially indicating the workers would settle for less.

According to Reuters, Munoz said union workers were also bothered by the future of jobs at Drummond’s port.

A number of the 400 who work there stand to lose their jobs when the producer switches over to conveyor belt loading early next year, and the group wants those jobs retained.

Drummond had said in a statement it would find other opportunities for some individuals and provide a “withdrawal plan” to others.

It did not make any public statements on the issue Friday.