Chilean miners strike and join wave of protest against government

Protests outside the Escondida mine

Strikes in Chilean mines strengthen workers' struggles throughout the copper industry, and reflect growing political unrest in Chile.

2,300 miners at Chile's Escondida copper mine - the largest in the world - have been out on strike since 22nd July, and were joined by 7,000 contractors on 27th July. The mine is privately owned by Australian firm BHP.

Workers at Escondida are demanding a rise in monthly production bonuses, and initially aimed for $11,ooo per worker to be paid out by the end of the year. BHP have declared the strike illegal, as bonuses are discretionary and fall outside the collective contract and strict anti-labour laws in Chile prevent workers from striking outside of the collective negotiating agreement. The union rejected BHP's offer of $6,000, which has since been lowered to $5,600 per worker. The strike continued, with the union lowering it's demand to $8,700, but BHP are now refused to negotiate while workers are still downing tools. Today, the union has put the $5,600 offer out to be voted on, and if accepted by the workers, the strike will be over. The union is also demanding protection for workers who contract work-related illnesses, removal of surveillance cameras throughout the mine, and improved punch-clocks which monitor their 12 hour shifts.

The Escondida strike is yet another case of workers' struggle throughout the mining industry in Chile and the rest of the world, as workers are demanding their share of record profits. Workers in Zambia and Indonesia have also been striking against private firms such as Anglo-American and Freeport McMoran.

Industry bosses are keen to bring an end to the Escondida strike as they fear a success for the workers here could fuel further strikes across Chile. At another major Chilean copper mine, Collahuasi, workers staged a 24hr stoppage over the weekend in protest against anti-union measures, pressure being placed on workers, and bosses attempts to negotiate with workers outside of the collective union contract. Collahuasi workers have previously held a 33-day strike in December 2010.

The state-run Coldeco mines have also seen their first walk-outs in over 20 years, prompting the increasingly unpopular President Pinera to meet with union leaders and assure them that Coldeco will not be privatised. Previous strikes at Coldeco saw sub-contractors demanding improved conditions. Signs outside the Escondida mine are calling for the mining industry to be re-nationalised.

The miners strikes form part of a wave of growing unrest in Chile, as students and environmentalists have also been protesting against the right wing Pinera government.

Posted By

Aug 4 2011 11:04


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Aug 4 2011 12:53

Updated as the union has asked workers to vote on BHP's $5,600 offer today.

Aug 4 2011 17:04

Thanks for posting this.
The fact that these miners strikes coincides with the student's movement is particularly interesting because many have raised the issue that the re-nationalization of the copper industry could mean the opportunity to have open and tuition free higher education as in Argentina. The Minister of Education and other representatives insist on claiming that economy and education are issues that need to be kept separate (While insisting on further privatization), that the movement has become too "ideologized", and that a free education is just infeasible, even though other South-American countries with a smaller GDP per capital like Argentina, do have free and quality education.

Aug 5 2011 10:46

This rules!

Aug 5 2011 18:11

The strike was called off today, as workers voted to accept the $5,600 offer after 2 weeks with no pay.

piper65 - that's really interesting, I've seen a few things about the student demonstrations in Chile, will have a go at writing something up about them too. If you've got any links to anything that goes into more depth that'd be really helpful, if not thanks anyway for bringing it up!

Aug 5 2011 19:00

This is an article today about Chilean students:

Chile: Riot Cops Battle Students in Santiago

Riot police have battled students on the streets of Chile's capital, firing water cannon and tear gas at protesters, reports Sky News.
The violence broke out in Santiago amid calls for changes to the country's under-funded education system.
Hundreds of thousands have protested in Chile's main cities in recent weeks and police detained more than 500 students in the latest skirmishes.
Several police officers and young people were injured.
Protesters had been warned that Thursday's marches were considered illegal and would be met with force.
The students marched anyway, setting up barricades of burning tyres at a dozen points around the city, which sparked traffic gridlock.
Many tried to peacefully hold their ground, but others dressed in hoodies threw missiles at police cars and passing buses.
Despite the crackdown, student activists called for protesters to keep up the demonstration.
The sounds of students bashing pans together could be heard in various parts of the capital late into the night.
Students, teachers and other education workers have participated in huge street demonstrations in recent weeks.
They want more government funding and a fundamental change in a system set up under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, who largely left public schools at the mercy of under-financed municipalities.

Plus there's this report:,-students-clash-in-banned-protests/

Also, if you're interested in Chile 5 years ago , there's some interesting stuff here:

(about 3/4 of the way down: Chile and what may have been a May '68 in the offing?)

Aug 6 2011 02:01

Report on yesterday's riots in The Guardian:

It began as a series of peaceful protests calling for reform of the Chilean government's education system, with students staging mass kiss-ins, dressing up in superhero costumes and running laps around the presidential palace. But on Thursday these surreal protests exploded into violence as school and university students clashed with police and seized a TV station, demanding the right to a live broadcast in order to express their demands.
The Chilean winter, as it is being called, appears to have captured the public mood, just as the Arab spring did six months ago.
After a day of street clashes, 874 people had been arrested and department store in the capital was smouldering after being attacked by protesters. Outrage against the rightwing government of Sebastiàn Piñera boiled over, with polls showing he is more unpopular than any leader since the fall of former dictator Augusto Pinochet.
Striking school students led the charge as they tried to march on the presidential palace early on Thursday, only to be thwarted by hundreds of police in riot gear and clouds of teargas. Tucapel Jiménez, a member of the Chilean congress, called for sanctions against government authorities who authorised what he called "brutal repression" by riot police.
News coverage of students being gassed and hauled off buses by police squads led Vallejo to call for the resignation of Rodrigo Hinzpeter, Chile's interior minister. Government officials insisted the students did not have a permit to march and defended the police reaction as necessary to maintain business as usual in Santiago. Government spokesman Andrés Chadwick estimated vandalism damage at $2m.
Marches were held in other big cities, including Valparaíso, Concepción and Temuco. Protests continued into the evening with vandalism and bonfires in various parts of the capital, snarling traffic and highlighting the growing wave of discontent.
La Polar, a retail chain recently charged with saddling consumers with outrageous interest rates on overdue accounts, was set alight. The torching was widely denounced by protest groups, but was the latest evidence that long dormant Chilean youth are rebelling against the orthodox free market ideology that dominates everyday Chilean life.
In recent years, for example, it was common for private hospitals to impose a 100% surcharge for babies born outside business hours. Students have long insisted for-profit universities and schools should receive no government subsidies.
The protest movement, organised largely through Facebook and Twitter, has shaken the Chilean political establishment as up to 100,000 students, usually costumed and peaceful, have marched.
With a mix of music and fancy dress, the students have used the streets of the capital as a stage for acts ranging from a 3,000- person re-enactmant of Michael Jackson's Thriller dance to a "besa-thon", where young couples kissed for hours in front of La Moneda, the presidential palace.
For two months hundreds of high schools have been seized by teenage students. Despite warnings from the government that tens of thousands of students would be forced to repeat the entire school year, high schoolers continue to demand an end to for-profit educational institutions, lower interest rates on student loans and a bus pass valid year round. ......
After being teargassed on Thursday, Vallejo called on citizens to show support for the striking students by banging pots and pans at 9pm – a reminder of the call to the streets used in the Pinochet era. Her call spread like wildfire on social networks and led to a night of clanging celebrations, spontaneous street festivals and a national realisation that Chile is living a historical moment, with a movement that cuts across traditional social and class boundaries.

Plus this report:

Aug 10 2011 15:23

-Ramona, I've only got info in Spanish, but anywayz, google translate gives u the main idea...
This student group is pretty good:
I've got an English translation of this declaration:
From December 2010, but my Spanish ain't great, so i'm getting a friend to check my translation. So yeah, i could sent you (or others) it, but I'm not happy to print it publicly until I get the ok from a fluently Spanish speaker.

Also, hommodolars has tons of stuff on the student struggles. It is an insurrectionist site but, so most of the material is 'agitational', some of it really good, some of it more derisive and confrontation.

Still, it has lotsa pics, as does ourwar (though nothing since May).

edit: here's the student convergence declaration (Dec 2010) in English:
'Statement of the Convergence Against the Government’s Student Educational Reforms"
and here's another English translation (taken from hommodolars, sauce)
On the proletarians who are studying: Let us fight for what we are!

Aug 13 2011 15:01
Ramona wrote:
I've seen a few things about the student demonstrations in Chile, will have a go at writing something up about them too. If you've got any links to anything that goes into more depth that'd be really helpful

From Anarkismo:

Chile: A new day of social protest for education

Libertarians and the bases for a social agreement for the Chilean education system

Aug 16 2011 23:40
9 de agosto de 2011.- SANTIAGO. Después de una hora de terminada oficialmente la marcha por la educación, cerca de las 15:00 horas Carabineros de Chile hace ingreso al Parque Almagro para disolver la manifestación y terminar con los desmanes que se produjeron en calle Nataniel Cox y el Paseo Bulnes.

En este video de vista aérea se observa el ingreso de Carabineros al parque, los ataques a los carros policiales y la forma en que un hombre detiene un carro lanza agua en la intersección de las calles Santa Isabel y Nataniel Cox.

Junto con lo anterior, se puede apreciar la caída de bombas lacrimógenas que son lanzadas con carabinas sobre los manifestantes.