January 24, 2019 / 5:20 PM / 3 months ago

Small group of Prodeco's Colombia coal port workers to vote on strike

BOGOTA, Jan 24 (Reuters) - Coal exports from Grupo Prodeco’s port in Colombia are proceeding normally despite the possibility a small group of unionized workers may vote to strike over pay and labor conditions, the company said on Thursday.

Prodeco, a subsidiary of Switzerland’s Glencore, is the third-largest producer of thermal coal in the Andean country.

Only three of the 115 workers at the Puerto Nuevo port are members of the union - Sintracarbon - which has called for the vote on a potential strike, the company said.

“The union has presented more than 60 petitions related to salary increases, changes in labor conditions, additional bonuses and other things that the company considers excessive or unreasonable,” Prodeco said in answer to emailed Reuters questions.

“It is improbable that a strike would have an impact on total exports,” Prodeco added. The dispute does not involve workers at the company’s mines in northeastern Cesar province.

Legal strikes generally require more than half of workers to vote in favor of a stoppage.

The company has been pressing workers not to participate in the vote, Aldo Amaya, the head of the union said, adding that results will come on Friday.

The union is asking for an annual salary increase of inflation plus 2 percent and housing, health and education benefits, even though it is already signed on to a contract valid through 2023.

The current contract stipulates annual raises of inflation plus 0.42 percent. Inflation was 3.18 percent in Colombia in 2018.

Prodeco employs more than 2,500 people. Its Calenturitas and La Jagua mines produced some 11.7 million tonnes of coal in 2018.

The company’s coal is transported by train to Puerto Nuevo, where it is shipped to Europe, Asia and the United States.

Besides Prodeco, the biggest players in Colombia’s coal industry are Drummond Co Inc, Murray Energy Corp’s Colombia Natural Resources, and Cerrejon, which is jointly owned by BHP Billiton, Anglo American Plc and Glencore. (Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta Writing by Julia Symmes Cobb; Editing by Helen Murphy and Tom Brown)

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