Argentine mine workers go on strike
Workers of the Contreras Mogetta BBBC Consorcio De Cooperación hired by Galaxy Lithium to exploit the Sal de Vida mine in the Argentine province of Catamarca have gone on strike citing overdue payments and non-compliance with the supply of proper gear.
Over 60 miners reacted after two employees were sacked for asking the Human Resourced department for improvements to their working conditions and for the labor agreements to be complied with.
Carlos Moya, one of the two dismissed workers, told reporters that he and his colleague Alejandro Molina had both submitted a note in writing asking for improvements on behalf of the rest of the workers.
After several attempts at dialogue with Human Relations and works engineers, we were forced to draft a letter … but they fired us before we could do so, Moya explained.
I think the problem here was because before this we communicated with the person in charge of [labor union] UOCRA, Hugo Brandán, so they found out before, he went on.
In their letter, the workers had requested the presence of UOCRA delegates, the mining police, the Ministry of Labor, and Galaxy managers to verify the irregularities they were denouncing. But the union was complicit, Moya stressed.
Among the miners’ demands was adequate clothing for working in temperatures of between 4 and 5 degrees below zero.
They give us a little jacket and shirt, and graphite pants. They told us that they would give us winter clothing later, but there are times of the day when the cold cannot be endured with these clothes, Moya elaborated.
The worker also explained that rides between Salar del Hombre Muerto, where the mine is located, and the provincial capital of San Fernando del Valle [de Catamarca] are made in a dirty bus. They are trips that last 14 hours, with a bathroom that you cannot go to due to the conditions in which it is, and instead they give us a milanesa [veal] sandwich for lunch.
Workers also had to pay their own fares when the contract stipulates employers should cover those expenses, it was reported.
Moya said he had been hired in January but finally started to work a month ago, for a salary of AR$ 140,000 (roughly US$ 700 at the unofficial exchange rate) for 14 days of work in the mine for 12 hours each day.
During the first fortnight, I was paid 35 thousand pesos and for the second 43 thousand. I understand that the highest-paid of my co-workers was 110,000 pesos for the two fortnights. Notwithstanding this situation they demoted us in category to justify this drop in salary, Moya also underlined.
Sometimes we work more than 12 hours, and the problem is not that, but that we are not paid for those extra hours and that they do not give us what they promised as salary. The law says that for working in hostile places as we do, salaries should be 20% higher, but they only receive AR$ 5,000 as a bonus, which doesn’t add up to the promise of 140 thousand.
Moya also complained about the workers’ housing conditions and insisted everyone was responsible for this situation: ”the State for not controlling, the union for having interests other than those of the workers and [also] Galaxy Mining (…) [who] should see to work regulations being complied with.
I understand that what they were looking for was for me to leave and not do anything. But I stayed, I made a police report on what happened and spoke to the media, Moya further elaborated. At the mine, my colleagues went on strike in support.
I was also told that tomorrow I may be received by the Secretary of Mining,” Moya hoped.
(Source: Página 12)