BHP and Rio Tinto employees go on strike in Chile

Approximately 2,500 employees at a Chilean copper mine have gone on strike against mining heavyweights BHP Billiton (ASX: BHP) and Rio Tinto (ASX: RIO) – which both own the mine – in search of higher pay and improved working conditions.

According to The Australian, the group went on strike for a period of 24 hours due to “a variety of issues that the company has not been responding to.” It is believed that these issues include the refusal by managers to pay an annual bonus (that is not covered in employee contracts), whilst staff are also demanding a system to record overtime hours worked.

At the beginning of this year, BHP’s and Rio’s respective new CEOs outlined the need to drastically reduce capital and operating costs in order to improve long-term sustainability. As a result, thousands of employees have lost their jobs and many have been forced to take pay cuts.

Foolish takeaway

Chile is the world’s leading copper producer, whilst the earnings for the Escondida mine in 2012 was around $3.47 billion. As such, an agreement with the employees must be made soon in order to continue production.

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Motley Fool contributor Ryan Newman does not own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this article.

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