Colombia Miners Say Sweetened Offer May Help Avert Strike

  • Ferro-nickel output at risk as sides meet before deadline
  • Proposal of 7% wage hike is closer to demands from union

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. The proposal is much closer to union demands for 7.5 percent, 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 posted a $27 million loss in the period from January to March this year, restricting compensation options, the mine’s managers said last month. 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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