South32 Colombia Nickel Union to Vote on Strike After Talks End

  • ‘No doubt’ employees will choose to stop work: union president
  • Union says Cerro Matoso mine proposed pay cut in real terms

Workers at South32 Ltd.’s nickel mine in northern Colombia say they will vote May 27 on whether to strike after management walked away from negotiations for a multi-annual wage agreement last week.

Talks broke down after members of Sintracerromatoso, the mine’s largest union, refused to discuss a company proposal that cut benefits and pegged this year’s salary increase to 50 percent of Colombia’s 2015 year-end inflation rate of 6.77 percent, according to union president Domingo Hernandez.

“There’s no doubt. We’re going to vote for a strike,” Hernandez said in a phone interview Monday.

A strike at Cerro Matoso during April 2015 caused output to fall, leading to a rise in global prices. The nickel complex is among the world’s largest, with output of 36,670 tons last year.

Consumer prices in Colombia rose 7.93 percent in April from a year earlier.

Cerro Matoso confirmed that the two sides aren’t currently talking, although this could change, the company said. The official end of direct talks is set for Friday. The fall in global nickel prices and output at the mine place restrictions on wage and benefit proposals, it said.

Although nickel has rebounded more than 15 percent since reaching the lowest in more than a decade in February, 70 percent of global output is still unprofitable, according to GMK Norilsk Nickel PJSC, one of the world’s largest producers.

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