Agreement between Glencore-Cerrejón and Sintracarbón


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The urgency of dialogue for a just transition for workers

The actions of the multinational Glencore have been causing concern since 2021. This was partly due to the massive redundancies in Cesar. However, the situation at El Cerrejón, one of Glencore's mines in northern Colombia, has taken a positive turn with the recent signing of an agreement between the Sintracarbón union and Glencore on 22 February. It sets a precedent for labour negotiations and closure plans during the energy transition.

A positive turn in the negotiations

Sintracarbón and Carbones del Cerrejón have signed a new collective agreement that will run until the end of 2027. This agreement includes a significant increase in salaries, bonuses and improvements in working conditions, such as the number of housing loans and study grants. However, the increase could have been better, given the multi-million dollar company's profits in recent years.

A remarkable aspect of the negotiation was an extra-conventional agreement that was signed, which permits Carbones del Cerrejón to include the worker in the discussions during the plans of closure for the mine. This would guarantee the participation of the workers during this critical process. 

No specific mention was made of the future of the workers during the closure of the mines. What was mentioned were the details of the approval of the environmental requirements and the steps to be taken for the responsible closure of the mine. This silence on the future of the workers is alarming and shows a lack of commitment to workers' rights.


Glencore's past actions create mistrust


Glencore's past actions are creating mistrust that is not unjustified. The Prodeco case in Cesar left more than 6,000 workers in limbo, including unionised and sick workers. In addition, the company's actions in other countries leave uncertainty about its commitment to responsible labour. Past events at Glencore, such as massive layoffs at mines in South Africa and Zambia, raise fears that a similar event could occur in Colombia.

The previous actions of Glencore generate a distrust that is not unwarranted. The Prodeco case in Cesar left more than 6.000 employees adrift, including workers with union privilege and sick workers. Additionally, the company’s actions in other countries leave an uncertainty about their commitment to responsible labour. Previous events by Glencore, like the massive layoffs at mines in South Africa and Zambia, aggravate the fear that a similar event will occur in Colombia.


Key role of dialogue and close observation

Although Glencore's track record in other regions has created mistrust, the agreement signed at Cerrejón would mark the beginning of a new era of labour negotiations in the sector. It sets a precedent for the mining industry in Colombia and potentially in other countries where Glencore operates.

Continued monitoring and social dialogue are needed to ensure that the commitments made in the CBA are translated into concrete actions to protect workers' rights and welfare during the energy transition. The Workers Collective for a Just Transition, of which Sintracarbón is a member, will continue to intervene actively in the dialogues that determine workers' working conditions.



Publication date 03 03 2024