Chilean Lithium Strike Enters Fourth Week With No Deal in Sight
(Bloomberg) -- A strike by Albemarle Corp. lithium workers in Chile has dragged into a fourth week with little to indicate the two sides are ready to make a deal.
The world’s biggest lithium producer says it continues to churn out the battery metal after 135 members of the Salar union walked off the job on Aug. 11 when wage talks broke down.
Workers accuse the company of anti-union practices and have set up camp at the facility’s entrance as they push for improved conditions and pay. On Thursday, a group of family members and other residents of Peine on the southern edge of the Atacama salt flat staged protests outside the premises in support of the strike. Many of the workers are from local indigenous communities.
The U.S.-based company is leaning on its other 600-odd workers and brine stockpiles to keep feeding a tightening global lithium market that has seen prices double this year. The windfall enjoyed by metal producers is emboldening employees at a time when Chile is drafting a new constitution that may lead to tougher rules on water, mineral and community rights. At the same time, companies are striving to keep labor costs in check in a cyclical business and as input prices start to rise.
Read More: Albemarle Seeks Responsible Lithium Credential
Albemarle has two production sites in northern Chile: the Salar plant in the Atacama desert and La Negra near the city of Antofagasta. It has reached wage agreements with three other unions.
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