First Quantum reaches deal with Panama copper mine union, avoids strike

By Valentine Hilaire

Mexico City (Reuters) -The Panamanian unit of Canada's First Quantum Minerals and a workers union at the company's key copper mine in Panama said on Saturday they had reached an agreement, avoiding a planned strike over profit sharing and wage increases.

The worker's union, Utramipa, had threatened on Thursday to stop work on Saturday, alleging an impasse in negotiation with the directors of Minera Panama, the miner's local unit. The company indicated on Friday that it was negotiating with workers.

"Utramipa has reached an agreement where we have completed the negotiation processes with the Minera Panama company, we have complied with the corresponding deadlines," union leader Michael Camacho said early Saturday in a video sent to Reuters. "There is no strike," he stated later.

Minera Panama confirmed in a Saturday statement that it had reached a deal with the workers.

"This agreement has been possible thanks to the collaboration, open dialogue and shared commitment to the collective wellbeing of our collaborators," the statement said, without disclosing further details.

Cobre Panama, a huge open-pit copper project located in the Panama jungle, is First Quantum's flagship operation, accounting for nearly half of its earnings. It also accounts for about 4% of Panama's gross domestic product.

"We have successfully obtained all the clauses that were presented in this new project," Camacho said.

He added that a salary increase had been agreed upon, but did not specify the amount, as well as several bonuses and improvements in retirement benefits.

Camacho said the union will provide more details about the agreement soon.

In a statement Thursday, the workers said there were disagreements over profit sharing and wage increases, and that the company was proposing an incentive instead of benefits, which would not be included in the collective bargaining agreement.

(Reporting by Valentine Hilaire and Raul Cortes in Mexico City; Translation by Jackie BottsEditing by Marguerita Choy and Richard Chang)