BHP Billiton's decision this week to give up its legal right to replace striking workers at the Escondida copper mine in Chile is a move aimed at sacrificing some output to undermine the union's position, analysts said Wednesday.
The strike began on Feb 9, after workers voted overwhelmingly to reject a wage contract offer by BHP Billiton. That led BHP to say it would not be able to meet contractual commitments, driving the copper price up on supply concerns.
BHP made a surprise announcement on Tuesday, saying it would not seek to exercise its right to replace the 2,500 striking workers after 15 days - which would have been this Friday.
Instead, it said it would wait at least 30 days.
The company said this was to assure the safety of its workers but industry experts say it was a strategic move that puts the ball in the union's court.