Union digs deep for Chilean miners

Image: CFMEU.net.au

As the rescue of 33 miners trapped 700 metres underground at the San Jose mine in Copiapo, Chile, was drawing closer, concerns were being raised about Chilean miners’ rights.

After the August 5 cave-in that trapped the workers, mining company San Esteban sacked more than 200 other miners, refusing to pay their wages and entitlements. The miners union in Chile is demanding the government pay the workers’ wages if the company won’t.

The NSW Construction Forestry Mining Energy Union backs this call. Together with the Chilean community in Sydney, the CFMEU has initiated an appeal in support of the miners. Already, $50,000 has been raised and sent to Chile.

The campaign is also demanding better mine safety in Chile. The CFMEU’s Olive Jinga, who is coordinating the campaign, told Green Left Weekly that San Esteban had a reputation for ignoring safety standards.

International media coverage of the disaster has mainly given the impression San Esteban is acting in the best interests of its workers. But it had refused to pay for the rescue effort and is reported to be filing for bankruptcy. A Chilean court froze its $10.23 million in assets to pay for the rescue.

Welcoming the Australian support, Chilean miners’ union secretary Javier Castillo Julio said the CFMEU had “always been in the forefront of international solidarity. This assistance is vital to our campaign for better safety and compensation to the miners in the Atacama [Desert in northern Chile]”.

A benefit concert in support of the miners will be held on Friday October 29, 6.30pm at the CFMEU offices in Lidcombe, NSW. Special guests include the Cuban band JJ Son con Idalbelis, now currently being toured by the NSW CFMEU.

For information or to donate to the CFMEU Miners of Chile Appeal, call Olive on (02) 9749 0414 or email ojinga@nsw.cfmeu.asn.au