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Miners to strike major producers in Peru

Section: Daily Dispatches

By Jean Luis Arce
Sunday, June 29, 2008

LIMA, Peru -- Miners in Peru, the world's leading silver producer and second-largest copper and zinc miner, were readying a strike for midnight on Sunday that will see walkouts at the country's leading pits.

Workers are expected to walk off the job at mines owned by Southern Copper, controlled by Grupo Mexico, Freeport-McMoran's Cerro Verde, Buenaventura, Canada's Barrick Gold, Shougang Hierro Peru, zinc producer Volcan, tin producer Minsur, Doe Run Peru, and others.

The Federation of Peruvian Mining Workers, Peru's largest mining union, wants Congress to approve a law to eliminate limits on employee profit sharing so they can benefit more from sky-high metals prices.

Federation secretary general Luis Castillo said unions across the country had approved the strike.

"Most of the unions, some 47 by now, have sent in their statements of strike approval, which are being ratified and work stops definitively at 00:00 hours," Castillo told Reuters by telephone on Sunday.

Similar strikes over the past year reduced output and boosted international metals prices.

Castillo said workers at the Casapalca and Morococha mines, the first producing zinc, lead, and silver and the second producing silver and which are on the outskirts of Lima, planned to block highways as part of their protest.

Mineral exports from Peru, a leading global metals producer, have helped fuel a six-year economic boom, but mine workers say they are not getting a fair share of profits.

The federation delayed the start of its strike twice this year to give Congress more time to discuss a bill that would lift caps on profit-sharing in the industry.

"Nearly 90 percent of companies are involved in this because the profits bill will benefit more than 85,000 workers who contract services," Castillo said.

The government of Peruvian President Alan Garcia has expressed support for the bill, but congressional leaders have not been able to reach a consensus.

"The government is supporting this bill," Prime Minister Jorge del Castillo said on Saturday. "By order of the president I have been attending meetings of Congress on the issue."

The unions are also asking the government to change rules for early retirement and give workers the right to enroll in state-run pension funds. They also want the workday reduced.

Another demand, a clampdown on outsourcing, was granted to workers last week.

Mining unions in Peru went on strike twice last year to put pressure on Congress to restrict non-union jobs in the sector and give workers a greater share of windfall profits.

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