Chilean copper mine workers have agreed to lift their strike after reaching an agreement with the state-owned Chilean National Copper Corporation (Codelco), it was announced Thursday.
The measure had been adopted by the Federation of Copper Workers (FTC) Wednesday following the closure of the Ventanas Smelter. But after a long meeting Thursday in Santiago with Codelco's board of directors, the union leaders signed an agreement which -they admitted- was not fully satisfactory: Although it is not 100% favorable, it allows us to continue believing in a luxury, prestigious company, said FTC leader Amador Pantoja.
The document describes a fair transition for the workers and a commitment to give continuity to the Ventanas Division, strengthening its refinery. Pantoja also underlined that we are going to live up to what Chileans need, especially in terms of the environment.
The closure of the smelter was decided Friday by Codelco's board of directors following criticism of the successive pollution episodes that led to the suspension of classes as a result of the poisoning of children through sulfur sulfide particles in the air.
President Gabriel Boric Font was quick to recall that during his campaign he had vowed to end the sacrifice zones, which is how he named those areas where dozens of industrial units have polluted the environment.
In the case of Quinteros-Ventana-Puchuncaví, not only the Ventanas division, but also oil refineries, fuel distribution, and chemist industries adding up to 17 productive units have been established there since the mid-1960s.
The closure was perceived as a threat to the livelihood of 350 workers and their families, who have been relocated to other divisions of Codelco, under the same labor conditions. Hence the work stoppage with the blocking of entrances and incendiary barricades.
FTC and Codelco have now agreed to promote a joint work table to seek solutions to the demands of the Ventanas miners and to solve the environmental issue, for which the Chilean government must disburse around US$ 54 million.
We have fulfilled the mandate given to us by the rank and file to safeguard the employability of the Ventanas workers, so we are ending our mobilizations to favor the path of dialogue, the FTC union leaders said in a statement.
Pantoja also said that the agreement guarantees a process that also includes other paths to explore, and in that regard we also have the instance of Parliament.
Codelco CEO André Sougarret said that at the table, we are going to look for solutions. We are with the workers, we intend to take charge of all their demands and see, depending on the type of worker, what we are going to do: reconversion, repositioning in some other division, or, if it is not possible, look for a solution that is adequate for the workers.