Colombia Calls Labor Tribunal to End 7-Week Drummond Coal Strike

Colombia’s Labor Ministry today called an “obligatory arbitration panel” to resolve a seven-week strike that has paralyzed coal output at Drummond Co., the country’s second-biggest producer.

The decision, which “implies the lifting of the strike in said company” is open to appeal, the ministry said in an e-mailed statement. A majority of Drummond’s mine, port and rail workers last week voted to end the stoppage.

Drummond, whose 26 million metric tons of coal output last year represented about 29 percent of Colombia’s production, supplies coal to European power producers including Electricite de France SA. (EDF) Coal is the country’s biggest export after oil.

Workers’ vote to end the strike defied the advice of the leadership of Sintramienergetica, the biggest union representing Drummond’s permanent workers in Colombia, who had urged its members to boycott the vote.

Sintramienergetica negotiators Cesar Flores and Humberto Suarez said in phone interviews they had not been informed of Labor Ministry’s ruling.

Workers at Cerrejon, joint-owned by BHP Billiton Ltd. (BHP), Anglo American Plc (AAL) and Glencore Xstrata Plc went on strike Feb. 7 in a dispute over pay and benefits, halting work at Colombia’s largest coal mine. The central bank cited paralysis in the coal industry in March, when it cut its benchmark interest rate half a percentage point to 3.25 percent.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrew Willis in Bogota at awillis21@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: James Attwood at jattwood3@bloomberg.net

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