Miners’ strike in Peru

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The miner’s strike in Peru is a fact. The miners that work for the Chinese company Shougang began their strike three weeks ago. The struggle has spread to all the mining centres in the country. Inevitably, for the moment, the unions have carried out their reactionary role, especially the union at the countries largest mine: Yanacocha (a gold mine in Cajaqmarca in the North of Peru, which generates $800 to $1000 million a year). This union held isolated discussions with the company and did not call a strike. Similarly, at Oroya the unions were denounced by the press for working. It clearly wanted to break the minimum unity since the Mining Federation had said that 33 union sites were on strike.

At Chimbote, where the peasant and unemployed struggle had been going for some weeks, the Sider Peru company was totally paralysed. Wives marched with the miners, along with much of the city’s population. In the city of Ilo streets were blockaded, in Cerro de Pasco 15 miners were arrested for stoning the local headquarters of the regional government.

The press carried out its reactionary role by saying that the strike was a failure. Acting as the mouthpiece of the state, the means of disinformation, along with the Minister of Mines (Pinilla) said that only 5,700 miners out of a total of 120,000 were on strike. The Mining Federation said that 22,000 were on strike.

At the Casapalca mine, on the Sierra de Lima, the miners detained the mining engineers who had threatened to sack them if they abandoned their posts. The Minister Pinilla declared the strike illegal because it had been called four days before it began, rather than the 5 that the law called for. There are a lot of temporary workers in the mines and the minister warned that those miners who did not return to work on the Thursday would be made unemployed.

Another aspect of this struggle was the involvement of the miners employed by sub-contracting companies. A miner employed directly by a company earns $23 a day, whilst a miner subcontracted to the mines, by one of these companies, earns $9 a day. An advertisement by a miner’s wife pointed out that President Alan García had promised in his election speeches to get rid of the sub-contractors.

On the other hand, a news programme showed a demoralised Shougang miner saying that three weeks had passed and he was not able to eat. The tears of the miner telling of his misery and that of his family which had to stay in the provinces could demoralise other miners on strike. Some students of the University of San Marcos in Lima showed solidarity with the miners and took some food for the ‘communal kitchens’, the latter is a common practice in all strikes (teachers, nurses, workers etc). Food is shared amongst families there, whilst exchanging experiences and evaluating the day’s struggle.

On the other hand, the government presented the privatisation of the Michiquillay mine in Cajamarca, whose initial price was $47 million but ended up being sold off for more than $400 million, as another demoralising blow.

This indefinite national strike, the first in 20 years, has not paralysed this sector.

A comrade in Lima 30/04/07.