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Colombian Cerrejon Coal Workers to Vote on Strike Action

According to foreign media reports, Colombia’s second largest coal producer Cerrejon and the company’s largest union Sintracarbon ended 40 days of negotiations on February 18, but have not yet been able to sign a collective agreement.  It is reported that workers are preparing to vote from February 20 on whether to strike or submit the case to an arbitration tribunal. Workers will have 10 days to vote. While workers begin voting, Sintra Carbon’s union will continue negotiations with Cerrejon.  

The move to continue negotiations while workers begin voting is unprecedented and demonstrates the union’s strong desire to reach a deal.  Therefore, despite the conclusion of 40 days of direct negotiations, Sintra Carbone and Cerrejon have not yet confirmed that the second phase of negotiations between the union and management has concluded.  

The majority of Sintra Caben’s 4,500 unionized workers are direct employees of Cerrejon. If workers vote in favor of a strike and Cerrejon fails to offer a better deal, strike action could begin any day between February 29 and March 2.  According to a union member, Cerrejon workers are unwilling to strike because they need wages – if they go on strike, workers will not get wages.  

Cerrejon has offered to sign a five-year labor agreement with union workers that would increase their bonuses to 6 million pesos (approximately 10,000 yuan) per year from the initially proposed 5 million pesos per year.   The Sintra Caboun union was willing to sign a two-year agreement and requested a one-time payment of 16 million pesos to workers over two years. It initially requested a one-year agreement.  On February 18, Cerrejon’s minority union, Sintracerrejon, also failed to reach an agreement with Cerrejon. Sixty unionized workers in Sintra Cerrejon will start voting on February 21.  

Cerrejon has also experienced many strikes before. Cerrejon union workers went on strike for three months in 2020; in 2018, the majority of Cerrejon workers belonging to the Sintra Carbon union voted in favor of a strike, including 3,399 of the 3,434 union members who voted. Pro-strike; in 2013, Cerrejon faced a 32-day strike, the company’s first in more than 20 years.

By: Sxcoal