CODELCO grows in utilities and also in dismissals

Publicado en Mar 7, 2013 - 5:04pm [1.595 lecturas] .

January 28, 2013. Por Mauricio Muñoz. Sociologist. Researcher Labor Area lCAL.

The state owned CODELCO Company is the main producer of copper in the world. Its assets overcome the 20 thousand million dollars. In the year 2011 its patrimony accounted for US $6.065 million and in that same year the workers of the company produced 1,79 million metric tons of refined copper. Never before had that figure been arrived at and these figures all constitute historical records. In this respect, the detailed information for the year 2012 is not yet disclosed, but everything indicates that the previous figures will be surpassed. For example and for shortly, the company has communicated at the beginning of 2013, that the Andina Division surpassed the production goal imposed for the previous year, reaching the 248 thousand tons [1].

Enough reasons to celebrate? Not really. Paradoxically, in spite of the good performance of its employees and of the company´s utilities that grow year after year, the company has announced that it will carry out more than 100 dismissals that will affect the workers of all the stratums that carry out functions in its headquarters.

One of the trade unions that groups professionals of the copper company, on Friday January 18th showed their annoyance. At the company´s offices they carried out a peaceful manifestation, interpellating the company to dialogue to solve these problems and to avoid the unilateral taking of decisions, like it has until this moment. In this context one of the leaders told the press that “it is enough of abuses, arrogance and prepotency. We are not willing to continue accepting it. […] They want to take CODELCO home. They want to steal Chile from us! “[2]. Do they want to steal Chile from us?

On Tuesday January 22nd the state owned company completed what had been announced [3]. After an audit carried out by the consultant Accenture that was in the context of the restructuring process impelled by the executive presidency of the mining company, directed by Thomas Keller[4], the company notified 109 workers that they would be laid off. Which are the details of the audit that lead to the decision of dismissing employees of a company that, according to the results that it exhibits, is efficient and productive?

There are empiric elements to affirm that the productive restructurings of the companies, with regards to the labor environment, are not agreed on between the parties, like would be expected by the union leadership of the professionals; they come “from above” and they are tactics of reorganization that imply dismissals and that pave the way to generate larger subcontracting of workers, to highlight some characteristics that are important for this document [5].

Particularly in CODELCO the amount of subcontracted workers is excessive and it has grown year after year. In 2007 the directly hired employees were 18.211 and those subcontracted reached 43.289. In 2011 there were 18.247 permanent staff workers and 45.064 subcontracted the latter more than twice as much as the former [6].

Different studies [7] have demonstrated that the subcontracting of workers in the mining industry is disastrous for the subjects that participate in the productive processes. This ends up as a “technique of dominance of the Capital”[8], of the companies over the workers, whose main consequences are:

1. Notable salary differences amongst the workers hired directly by the company and those subcontracted, where the former can earn as much as 3 or 4 times more, than the latter.

2. Status differences among the two types of workers.

3. Problems of “dual control” or “the employer’s role being more difuse”, since it is this  company that is “leading” and not the “contractor”, and it is the former who generates the working guidelines,  functions and orders.

4. Worker’s identity problem. In most cases workers develop strong ties of belonging, more consolidated, with head business over contractors.

Just as I have affirmed in other articles [9]: The subcontracting  reaches the status of dominance technique when it is used as a device that allows the administration and the control of the workers through the deterioration of their labor conditions. We can see that the subcontracting in the copper industry tends to dissociate and to oppose the workers that participate directly in the production. It generates workers that exercise the same function inside a company, under material conditions that are similar but different contractual forms of linking them with their employers and unequal labor conditions.  This creates workers of different categories and at the same time delimits their potentiality to production, as well as atomizing trade unions. This makes more complex the processes of identity configuration, mingling and many times confusing workplace cultures and devaluating the senses of the workers.

What to do in face of this? It is fundamental that the workers unite and that they strengthen and democratize the union organizations at the base. To make of the unions robust formations, instances for dialogue, solidarity and resistance to these policies.  To force the companies to negotiate and that these negotiations go beyond the economic demands (that without a doubt are necessary). Not to fear the conflict, to plan it and to organize it. To make of the strike a valid instrument of pressure. To study the companies, its managers and the Capital, to learn and to understand their logics and forms of acting. To generate broader dialogues, that is to say, without abandoning the space of the company, to arrive at the political ground, where questions related with the rights of the workers are discussed (“new Labor Code”, for example) and the citizens (“new Political Constitution”, for example), where projects are forged that give sense to the organization and the workers in general. Linking up with other union organizations (contractors, staff,   federations, confederations, CUT (mayor trade union), both social and political organizations, to build virtuous ties that allow not only nominal association but rather true alliances of counter-power. Definitively, to work to become a potent political actor, agglutinant, that can make face to the Capital and at the same time to outline for the society an alternative project of development, a new utopia.


[1] information obtained from /

[2] /

[3] newspaper El Mercurio of January 22nd  2013.

[4] Thomas Keller Lippold arrives at CODELCO July 1st of 2010. This commercial engineer with MBA at University of Chicago, has acted mainly in the areas of finances and in the general management of companies linked to the area of natural resources. During 10 years has held diverse positions in the Shell group, in the Mining Company Doña Inés de Collahuasi, company to which he had ties for 12 years and was its Executive President. Later on, assumed  Divisional General Management of Cencosud and, starting from the year 2008,  was Managing Partner of Brookfield Asset Management for Latin America, a multinational administrator of assets.

[5] only to mention a case in Chile and that  was studied by the Labor Area of Ical in the year 2009, see Labor Notes Ical, “Telefónica Chile. Restructurings and historical earnings in the mark of socially irresponsible practices”. Available in:

[6] Codelco. (2012). annual memory 2011. p. 21.

[7] Cornejo, I. (2007). Labor Flexibility,  technological change and precarization of the employment in the Division El Teniente of Codelco Chile. Thesis to obtain Sociologist’s professional title. Santiago: University ARCIS., Núñez, D. (2009). The movement of the hard-working contractors of CODELCO: An innovative experience of collective negotiation. In Aravena, A. and Núñez, D. (Editors). Rebirth of the labor strike. The union movement in the first decade of the XXI century. Santiago: Ical, and Villalobos, C. (2010). Subcontracting  and syndicalism in the XXI century: Social relations, Labor and Union Organization in the great mining industry of  Chilean copper. In Magazine GPT Nº 8. Santiago: USACH

[8] Muñoz, M. (2012). Labor flexibility and its impact in the configuration of subjectivities. (pp. 84-86). Santiago: ICAL.

[9] Muñoz, M. (2011). The copper mining in Chile. Labor notes ICAL. Available in: http: // and Muñoz, M. (2012). Op. Cit. p. 87.

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