Workers at Chile's BHP copper mine strike to protest layoffs

Job losses due to previous labour disruption: Union
||Last Updated: 11/30/2017
Labour strike
Workers of BHP Billiton's Escondida, the world's biggest copper mine, are seen in front of the open pit, in Antofagasta, northern Chile. REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado

SANTIAGO (Reuters) — Unionized workers at Chile's Escondida copper mine — the world's largest — on Thursday started a 24-hour strike to protest recent layoffs, according to a union statement.

BHP, which operates the mine, had said Wednesday that it would lay off 120 workers, or approximately three per cent of the mine's workforce amid adjustments to its workflow.

The union said the workers had been laid off without a "legitimate reason." BHP had no immediate comment.

"The strike has been massively backed by our members, resulting in total work stoppage," the union said in a statement.

The union added that it would go on strike again the following week should its demand not be met, calling the layoffs a "reprisal" for a stoppage earlier in the year, and an "intimidation" tactic employed by the company ahead of pending negotiations.

In February, workers at the mine walked off the job for a month and a half, putting a dent in Chile's economy and sending shockwaves through the market.

The union extended the strike by invoking a legal provision that allows it to extend its old contract by 18 months, pushing forward a new round of talks to 2018.

Chile is the world's biggest copper exporter.

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