LIMA, PERU - Peruvian miners voted Friday to approve a national strike in June to protest “anti-labor” government proposals, Ricardo Juarez, secretary general of the National Federation of Miners, Metallurgists and Steelworkers, told Reuters.
Members of the federation, an umbrella group for hundreds of unions representing workers at some of the country’s largest mines, had met in the country’s capital, Lima, to vote on the measure. Peru is the world’s second-largest producer of copper, zinc and silver, and the sixth-largest producer of gold.
The strike is a protest “against the new labor rules that reduce workers’ rights that the government is trying to impose,” Juarez said.
The group, whose members work at mines owned by companies including Barrick Gold Corp., BHP Billiton PLC and Newmont Mining Corp., will meet again in the first week of June to set a definitive date for the strike, Juarez said.
First nationwide strike in two years
The national strike would be the first under President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, a former investment banker and free-markets proponent who has sought to attract investment since taking office last year. Representatives of Peru’s Labor Ministry were not immediately available for comment.
A nationwide strike two years ago had little impact on production as companies had contingency plans in place.
Peru has boasted some of the highest growth rates in the region in recent years, but its economy remains dependent on mining, and conflicts between mining companies and organized labor, as well as indigenous communities, are common.
Zenon Mujica, secretary general of the union representing workers at Freeport-McMoRan Inc.’s Cerro Verde copper mine, Peru’s largest, said members had decided to adhere to the planned strike.
Earlier Friday, Mujica had said Cerro Verde workers were evaluating whether to strike after the union said the company had threatened punishment for a previous work stoppage. The workers’ three-week strike in March hit output at the mine.
Last week, workers at Southern Copper Corp.’s Toquepala and Cuajone mines and the Ilo refinery returned to work after a two-week strike, which the company said reduced production by just 1,418 tons. The two mines together produced 310,000 tons of copper last year, according to government data.