Trade unions in Chile are denouncing the lack of measures to guarantee the safety of their workers, while the government and the mining industry refuse to put the brakes on the sector that is the driving force behind the country’s economy.
Codelco is the state copper company and the world’s leading copper producer which employs 70,000 workers and is the largest contributor to the Chilean economy. Codelco now has more than 2,600 infected workers and accounts for five of the nine deaths within the mining sector.
Chile is now the third most affected country in Latin America, behind Brazil and Peru, and seventh worldwide, with more than 285,000 infections and almost 6,000 deaths.
The spread of the virus in the north of the country, which since the beginning of June has multiplied at a high rate, has triggered alarm in the sector, but the miners say the measures that have been implemented have come “too late”. “They didn’t listen to us at the beginning of the pandemic when we asked for safeguards,” says the president of the Copper Workers Federation (FTC), Patricio Elgueta. The lack of safety measures and quarantine in the northern region is being questioned and Elgueta is concerned over the government’s apparent views to place “productivity over life”. “We are concerned about the government’s discourse that makes it clear that productivity is above the lives of our workers,” Patricio Elgueta claims.
While awaiting more radical measures to stop the spread of the virus, the mining unions are putting pressure on politicians and businessmen to make “their voice and experience” in managing the crisis heard. Codelco workers are even considering going further and taking criminal action against the copper company.