Freeport Cerro Verde Workers Vote to End Two-Month Strike
Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold Inc. (FCX)’s Peruvian workers voted to end a 61-day strike after the Andean country’s government pledged to settle a wage dispute, a union official said.
Workers at Freeport’s Sociedad Minera Cerro Verde SAA (CVERDEC1) unit, who walked off the job on Sept. 29, will have medical checkups tomorrow and return to the mine Nov. 30, union official William Camacho said today in a telephone interview.
“There’s no point in continuing the strike as we’ve placed everything in the hands of the authorities,” Camacho said from Arequipa, 750 kilometers (466 miles) southeast of Lima. “The Labor Ministry should take about 20 days to set a one-year wage accord.”
Workers in Peru, Chile, Bolivia and Indonesia have carried out strikes at copper, gold and zinc mines this year to push for improved conditions and a bigger slice of record profits after metal prices surged. Workers at Freeport’s Grasberg mine in Indonesia have been on strike since Sept. 15.
Workers in Peru are seeking a 9 percent annual wage increase, while Cerro Verde is offering a one-time bonus of 1,200 soles ($433), according to the union.
Eric Kinneberg, spokesman for Phoenix-based Freeport, didn’t immediately respond to a telephone call and an e-mail seeking comment.
The Cerro Verde strike hasn’t had a “significant” impact on copper output, Chief Executive Officer Richard Adkerson said Nov. 16. The mine, which produced 312,336 metric tons of copper last year, has been operating at two-thirds of capacity after Freeport hired non-union workers, Kinneberg said Oct. 24.
The stoppage at Grasberg, which holds the world’s largest recoverable reserves of copper, has raised concern it may widen a global metal deficit and boost prices.
The company’s Indonesian workers, who have rejected an offer to boost pay by 30 percent over two years, are demanding a wage increase to $7.50-to-$33 an hour from $1.50-to-$3.50.
Milling operations at Grasberg have been suspended since Oct. 22 because of damaged pipelines. A union official said on Nov. 9 that the strike would be extended for a third month until Dec. 15.
Copper futures for March delivery climbed 2.7 percent to close at $3.3715 a pound on the Comex in New York, the biggest gain for a most-active contract since Oct. 27. Copper gained as a proposed framework for a bailout fund in Europe boosted prospects that the region will tame a debt crisis that has slowed economic growth and demand for raw materials.
Freeport rose 6.3 percent to close at $35.94 today in New York. Cerro Verde gained 2 percent to $35.70 in Lima.
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