February 3, 2017 / 3:33 PM / a year ago

BHP Billiton requests govt mediation with workers at Escondida mine

SANTIAGO, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Workers at BHP Billiton’s Escondida copper mine in Chile, the world’s biggest, prepared to re-enter dialogue with the company on Friday, after BHP solicited government mediation in a bid to avoid a strike.

Unionized workers at the mine this week rejected the last company wage offer and voted for a work stoppage. However, the union said late Thursday night that the company had asked for mediation by Chile’s Labor Directorate which effectively extends negotiations and pushes back the start of a possible strike.

In a statement, the union said that further talks could be fruitful only if the company improved upon its offer significantly.

“We reiterate that there will be no possibility of an agreement if the company maintains its position of reducing remuneration and additionally separating the conditions for new and old workers,” the union said.

A possibility of a strike at the massive mine, which the union has warned could be lengthy, has pushed up the price of copper in recent days.

Escondida produced 1.15 million tonnes of the metal in 2015, about 6 percent of the world’s total. It is majority controlled by BHP, with Rio Tinto , and Japan’s JECO also owning stakes. (Reporting by Fabian Cambero; Writing by Gram Slattery)

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