103 miners from Tambillo, a small mining village in the region of Coquimbo in Chile, have been on official strike since May 1st. By the middle of August they had been out for over 100 days without pay in the longest strike in Chile since the restoration of democracy in 1990.
The pit is owned by one of the largest capitalists in Chile, Francisco Javier Errazuriz, a well known Pinochet supporter, anti-union right winger. As well as the Tambillo mine Errazuriz owns a chain of super markets called Unimarc and Errazuriz wines, which are sold worldwide. Miners are calling for a boycott of all of Errazuriz interests. Luis Robles the miners official spokesperson said:
"Errazuriz doesn´t know the miners whose work makes him rich. He never gives back to the community, to the school, or makes pension contributions. He just uses us for working in his mines and exploits the public infrastructure of Tambillo to transport his copper. It would be great to work in a mine controlled by the miners themselves."
Miners go on strike
The strike began following the failure of the annual pay negotiations in April. Errazuriz demanded that the Tamibillo miners accept a 35% pay cut. If the miners wanted to maintain their pay at its original level, then wages could be made up through bonuses, which if not reached would result in the sack.
The miners rejected the pay offer and held a mass meeting of all union members. Of 104 present 101 voted in favour of a strike from May 1st. Errazuriz responded by illegally withholding the miners April pay and bonus and sacking 50 non-union miners on the spot. Since then Errazuriz has refused to negotiate or meet with the strikers.
Police attack the strike
The strike is solid, but the miners are suffering constant police surveillance and harassment, which turned into a brutal assault, when the police moved to break up a peaceful protest outside the pit entrance in June. Miners, their families and children had gathered to support a 10 day hunger strike of three miners and two university students. Police used water cannons, baton charges and tear gas to break up the protest, chasing miners, their wives and children through Tambillo village on motor bikes.
The miners are actively supported by their wives who take part in the daily picket, organise welfare activities and publicise the strikers demands, even while they are struggling to provide food and bus fares for their children to attend school.
Errazuiz under arrest
The miners have successfully taken Errazuriz to court, where he was found guilty of breaching trade union law and ordered by the magistrate to pay the miners April pay and bonus in full and fined for his anti-union activities. Errazuriz was given three days to pay pending an order for his immediate arrest.
The miners of Tambillo, are determined to fight on until their ay cut is withdrawn and the pay claim met in full. A victory for them would be a victory for all workers, and particularly the most exploited miners in Chile´s copper industry. But the miners need the solidarity of all other workers world wide. They have no strike pay and are surviving on a very minimal income they are totally reliant on donations and collections from other workers in order to maintain their fight.
Any messages of support can be send to my email; email@example.com the official spokesperson of the miners union and to the trade union blog
Send financial contribution to:
Bank account number: 0-017-04-51614-9
BANCO SANTANDER BANEFE (CHEQUERA ELECTRONICA) Chile.
There is more information about the miners strike at the Tamibillo miners web page here.
And on these videos:
Tambillo Copper Miners Union