WRAPUP 4-Tough talks seen at Collahuasi after strike vote

* Wage talks resume on Friday via gov’t mediation

* If no deal, strike could come as early as Nov. 5

* Supply threat helps lift copper prices
(Adds formal mediation request, quote, fresh graphic)

By Fabian Cambero

IQUIQUE, Chile, Oct 28 (BestGrowthStock) – Union workers at Chile’s
giant Collahuasi mine on Thursday geared up for what appear to
be tense wage negotiations with the deposit operator, raising
the specter of a strike at the world’s No. 3 copper mine.

Union leader Cristian Arancibia told Reuters that workers
planned to resume wage negotiations with the company on Friday
via government mediation, following a vote for strike action.

He said a strike could came as early as Nov. 5, if no deal
is reached during mediation.

The company hoped to reach an agreement with the union
during the five-day government mediation, said Collahuasi mine
operator spokeswoman Bernardita Fernandez, confirming the
company had formally sought mediation.

“We hope that through this mediation the company and the
union will reach a deal in this collective negotiation that
satisfies both sides,” she said.

All but seven of the union’s 1,551 members late on
Wednesday rejected the wage offer to demand mine owners Xstrata
(XTA.L: ) and Anglo American (AAL.L: ) pay a bigger slice of record
profits to workers.

Fears of a stoppage at a mine that produces 535,000 tonnes
of copper a year, or 3.3 percent of the world’s mined copper,
helped lift copper prices (CMCU3: ) in London on Thursday.
[ID:nLDE69R0PG]

<^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^ Take a Look on Collahuasi strike threats [ID:nN27209201] ANALYSIS-Tough talks may disrupt copper supply [ID:nN27263623] Timeline-Chile's major mining strikes [ID:nN27209541] Graphic on top Chile mines: http://link.reuters.com/xyt38p Graphic on Collahuasi output:http://r.reuters.com/zur52q Graphic on copper supply deficit: http://r.reuters.com/req72q ^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^>

Although a stoppage is not yet imminent, the union’s bold
tactics increase the risk of labor action in coming weeks,
albeit short-lived, amid the backdrop of a four-day strike
during Collahuasi’s last wage negotiations in 2007 and
union-backed protests that hit operations in May.

The stand-off could set a precedent for wage talks at three
other Chilean mines, which account for nearly 20 percent of the
country’s annual output, or 1.02 million tonnes.

Workers could copy the Collahuasi union’s tactics to wrest
better terms in labor negotiations to start in coming months.

Chile’s miners are also basking in public support following
the dramatic rescue of 33 workers trapped underground for 69
days. [ID:nN14104048]

Workers at Codelco’s 300,000 tonne-a-year Radomiro Tomic
mine have started wage negotiations after rejecting an early
offer by the company in September.

LEVERAGE?

Collahuasi’s union called the company’s last offer to raise
bonuses to around $19,000 “insufficient” and aims for benefits
closer to the $25,000 that union workers received from BHP
Billiton’s (BHP.AX: )(BLT.L: ) Escondida mine in wage negotiations
last year.

Over 99 percent of Collahuasi’s union members voted to
strike rather than accept the company’s latest offer, according
to final results provided by the union.

“There is no question that Collahuasi can pay that much,”
said a senior industry executive who was involved in the mine’s
previous wage talks in 2007. “That has to be the way to go for
the company.”

He said that the union’s 2007 strike was short lived
because the stoppage’s impact on production was gradual and
leaders were not prepared to keep unity among workers for a
long-haul.

Now, union sources are betting support from disgruntled
subcontract workers could be the leverage they need to twist
the company’s arm by hitting production hard and quick in a
strike.

In May, a protest by subcontractors backed by union leaders
hit operations and forced the mine briefly to declare force
majeure. The overall impact was marginal and did not change the
company’s output targets.

One subcontract leader told Reuters temporary workers are
ready to down tools in support of their union colleagues,
although the extent of their support remains to be seen. The
company fired many temporary workers who took part in the
protests in May.

A decision by Collahuasi union workers on whether to accept
a new wage offer or strike should be made by Nov. 4, said
Arancibia, who is the head of the national federation of
workers at private mines. If workers scrap a new offer, the
strike should start in the first shift on Nov. 5.

“There is a wide gap between what we want and what the
company is offering,” Arancibia said. “The company has the
cash. It is up to them to give us what is rightfully ours.”
(Additional reporting and writing by Alonso Soto; Editing by
Simon Gardner and Sofina Mirza-Reid)

WRAPUP 4-Tough talks seen at Collahuasi after strike vote