South32 Nickel Union Says Offer May Help Avert Colombia Strike

  • Proposal of 7% wage hike is closer to Colombian union demands
  • Two sides to meet Monday before strike deadline on Tuesday

The main union at South32 Ltd.’s Cerro Matoso mine in Colombia, the world’s second-biggest source of ferro-nickel production, said there’s a greater chance of reaching a three-year wage agreement and avoiding a strike after management sweetened its offer.

Cerro Matoso is offering workers a 7 percent raise this year, plus inflation-linked increases in 2017 and 2018, according to the Sintracerromatoso union. The proposal is much closer to union demands for a 7.5 percent increase, though still short, union President Domingo Hernandez said. The union is seeking raises matching inflation plus 1.5 percent in 2017 and 2018.

“We are very close to a deal,” Hernandez said Saturday in a phone interview. “If the company improves a few things, there’s a real possibility.”

The two sides will resume talks on Monday in an effort to broker a final agreement before a 3 p.m. deadline on Tuesday for the strike to start. A walkout in 2015 at Cerro Matoso helped push up global nickel prices.

Cerro Matoso didn’t immediately reply to an e-mail sent outside normal business hours seeking comment on the talks. South32 has said the nickel mine must deliver a plan to return to profitability in the coming fiscal year to stay open.

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