Southern Copper Unions to Strike Dec. 24 as Wage Talks Fail

Workers at Southern Copper Corp., the largest producer of the metal in Peru, plan their first strike in four years on Dec. 24 after wage talks broke down, a union official said.

Unions from the company’s Cuajone and Toquepala copper mines and Ilo smelter presented the date at the Labor Ministry today after the company refused to accept a request for a 15 percent annual pay rise, smelter union official Ricardo Juarez said. The Phoenix-based company, which is seeking a four-year accord, offered a 5.5 percent annual wage increase, he said.

“The company has dug in its feet and refuses to make a better offer,” Juarez said in a telephone interview from Lima. “It’s regrettable that Christmas will be soured for both workers and the company.”

Workers in Peru, Bolivia and Chile have held work stoppages at copper, zinc, iron and gold mines this year to seek a bigger percentage of company earnings. Peru’s Mining Federation plans a national strike in February. Southern Copper workers last held a strike in 2008.

The company is prepared to renew negotiations with union officials, Alberto Giles, a spokesman, said.

“The will for dialogue is always there,” Giles said in a telephone interview from Ilo, Peru. “We’re now waiting for the conciliation process” brokered by the Labor Ministry, he said.

Southern Copper, which also operates mines in Mexico, plans to invest $2.1 billion in upgrades and a new mine in Peru in a bid to double annual output to more than 1 million metric tons. Peru is the world’s largest copper producer after Chile.

Southern Copper rose 1.1 percent to $38.20 at the close in New York.

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