28 thousand workers contracted by Codelco began a strike December 29. They are demanding a compensatory bonus of 500,000 pesos (972 dollars). Chile, principal producer of copper worldwide, receives the benefits of profits in the millions as a result of the extremely high price of the metal (2 dollars a pound). The workers at the plant received a bonus of 1,600,000 pesos and the supervisors 2,600,000. The wage differences between a full-time worker at the plant and outsourced workers are enormous.
After a series of meetings with the authorities of Codelco, no agreement was arrived at. At 8 in the morning of the 29th, the national strike began. In the 6th Region there was a march on City Hall, while in the Maitenes sector and on the copper highway another two thousand workers blocked the entrance of vehicles to the mines. In the 5th Region, in the city of Los Andes, the workers carried out massive mobilizations and blocked the international highway. In the city of Rancagua (6th Region) there are pickets on the principal streets in the city.
The workers of Andina, El Teniente and Codelco Norte —which has a strong nucleus mobilized consisting of more than half the plant of 28,000— are supported by a broad sector of the plant which accuses the company of imposing precarious and discriminatory working conditions. Most of the contracted workers carry out the same tasks as the full time workers in the plant.
During the year, twelve miners died as a result of lack of preventive equipment for the contracted workers.
The company and the government say that they cannot give the bonus demanded by the workers because it is not their responsibility to dispose of the surplus, but rather that of the outsourcing company that contracts them. The multi-million profits have increased with speculation resulting from the possible scarcity of the metal, after the threat of strikes. In other words, with these high levels, Chile stands to receive comfortably more than 4 billion dollars more than in 2004. This means important profits for the companies since the origin is to be found in the rise in international prices of the metal, and there are no additional costs. At these price levels, the industry was projected to provide revenue in taxes equivalent to nearly 2 billion dollars and, in the case of Codelco, a surplus of more than 5 billion is expected.