Thai / English

The fruits of the ICEM’s Contract and Agency Labour campaign were revealed last week when the first sub-contracting company at massive Carbones del Cerrejón recognized a newly-formed union. Chaneme Comercial S.A., a mechanical maintenance contractor, has recognized the trade union Sintracheneme, and with the assistance of ICEM mining affiliate Sintracarbòn, is currently negotiating a first collective agreement for 300 maintenance contract workers.

“The ICEM salutes the leaders and dedicated union members of Sintracarbòn,” said General Secretary Manfred Warda. “Through their diligence, and the diligence of Project Coordinator Carlos Bustos, they made this possible. History has been made at one of the world’s largest coal mines.”

Carbones del Cerrejón, equally owned by BHP Billiton, AngloAmerican, and Xstrata, employs some 3,500 miners, who are represented by Sintracarbòn. But another 4,000 workers at the sprawling mine pits in La Guajira state are employed by contract workers.

This past summer, Sintracarbòn assisted 150 drivers with union organization, but that employer, SOTRANS, has refused to consider the transport workers’ demands or recognise their union, Sintrans. (See that story here) The ICEM has taken the matter up with the parent companies of Carbones del Cerrejón.

But with Chaneme Comercial, however, talks are now underway regarding work conditions at Cerrejón, education allowances for both workers and their children, and on community development. Chaneme employs another 400 maintenance mechanics in other mines of northern Colombia.

Jaime Deluquez, centre, with Jesús Brochero and José Nicolás Brito Mendoza

Workers of Chaneme repair and maintain the massive 240-tonne and 320-tonne trucks, as well as doing the same for the heavy digging equipment that inhabits the eight open cast mines of Carbones del Cerrejón.

“This is an important precedent here and more important is that we reach an amiable and effective collective agreement,” said Jaime Deluquez of Sintracarbòn, who together with Edilberto Contreras of national labour center CUT has been assigned to assist the bargaining committee from Sintracheneme in reaching a first labour agreement.

That accomplishment may be only days away, since the employer – unlike SOTRANS – has displayed a willingness to reach terms.