Colombia Cerrejon Union to Strike for Higher Pay, Union Says

Workers at Cerrejon, a Colombian coal mine owned by BHP Billiton Plc, Xstrata Plc and Anglo American Plc, plan to go on strike after wage talks broke down, a union official said.

About 4,500 workers voted for a work stoppage at Cerrejon, the country’s largest coal mine, starting between Feb. 1 and 9 to press their demands for an 8.5 percent pay rise and better health-care benefits, said Luz Maria Tobon, a spokeswoman for the National Coal Industry Workers Union, known as Sintracarbon. The workers have been offered a 5 percent increase, she said.

“We can’t accept their proposal because it doesn’t match our needs or the company’s earnings,” Tobon said today in a telephone interview from Medellin.

The mine is investing $1.3 billion to boost output to 40 million tons by 2014, Carlos Franco, international relations manager, said in a Nov. 6 interview. Cerrejon produced 34.6 million tons of coal in 2012, the company said Jan. 4 in a statement on its website.

Cerrejon has invited the union to resume negotiations in a bid to avoid a strike, spokesman Juan Carlos Restrepo said in a telephone interview. The union, which may resume talks while it decides the strike date, also wants better compensation for communities forced to move as the mine expands, according to its website.

The benchmark price for hard coking coal in the first quarter is $165 a ton, down 2.9 percent from the fourth quarter and the lowest since $129 a ton in 2010, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. Thermal coal for 2014 delivery to Amsterdam, Rotterdam or Antwerp traded at $100.35 a metric ton today, according to broker data compiled by Bloomberg.

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