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LAPXXX10.1177/0094582X17709541Latin American PerspectivesManky / LABOR SEGMENTATION IN PERUVIAN MINING

Part-Time Miners
Labor Segmentation and Collective Action in the
Peruvian Mining Industry
Omar Manky
Translated by
Margot Olavarria

Over the past two decades, besides the transformation of the organizational structure
of the mining industry, there has been a shift in the spatial organization of production,
expressed by the replacement of mining towns with mining hotels. Two case studies in
Peru show that these changes have produced new forms of labor segmentation affecting
workers capacity to mobilize by turning those who are directly employed by the company
into a minority. While subcontracted miners have managed to overcome organizational
segmentation by organizing across companies, the spatial segmentation of the mining
hotel model has made local coordination difficult. Workers are not, however, necessarily
defeated, as greater spatial mobility may offer possibilities of networking with new actors.

En las ltimas dos dcadas, a la transformacin de la estructura organizacional de las

empresas mineras, cuya manifestacin es la subcontratacin laboral, se agrega el cambio
en la organizacin espacial de la produccin, expresada en el reemplazo del modelo de
ciudad por hoteles mineros. Dos estudios de caso en Per revelan que la segmentacin
organizacional reduce la capacidad de movilizacin porque vuelve a los trabajadores
directamente empleados una minora. Mientras la segmentacin organizacional puede ser
parcialmente superada a partir de la capacidad de los contratistas para coordinar acciones,
un segundo tipo de segmentacin, la espacial, dificulta coordinaciones a nivel local. Sin
embargo, los obreros mineros no estn necesariamente derrotados, pues su alta movilidad
espacial podra traer la posibilidad de tender redes con actores transnacionales.

Keywords: Labor, Labor Unions, Mining, Peru, Subcontracting

Mineworkers and their organizations have been absent from most studies on
the current cycle of extractivism. Although studies about peasant communities
(Gil, 2009), the environment (Szablowski, 2002), and local development
(Bebbington, 2011; de Echave, 2005) have detailed the industrys dynamics,
labor and its transformation have not been their major focus. The goal of this
article is to fill this void. I focus on two transformations: the decentralization of
production, resulting in the increasing subcontracting of labor, and the trans-

Omar Manky holds a Ph.D. in industrial and labor relations from Cornell University and is an
assistant professor at ESAN University in Lima, Peru. He thanks the editors of this issue and all
the reviewers for their valuable comments. Margot Olavarria is a translator living in New York

DOI: 10.1177/0094582X17709541
2017 Latin American Perspectives


formation of the production space, expressed by the abandonment of the min-

ing town model. In addition to mapping the context in which these changes
took place, I analyze the way they have affected union dynamics. The link
between studies of labor market segmentation (Gordon, Edwards, and Reich,
1982; Hudson, 2007) and those that analyze space as the product and producer
of labor relations (McGrath-Champ, Herod, and Rainnie, 2010; Peck, 1996)
illustrates why miners have seen their union dynamics affected. To examine
this double segmentation, I draw upon two case studies in Peru, including
archival research, interviews of miners and their families, and participant
observation in union halls.
The article is divided into four sections. The first presents the framework
used to analyze the labor transformations in the mining industry, and the sec-
ond describes the methodology used. The third presents the results of the study,
and the last details its conclusions and the research paths it opens.

Labor Segmentation In The Mining Industry

Labor market studies have shown that labor relations are not the mere result
of rational economic transactions but the product of the intersection between
institutions and actors competing over material and symbolic resources
(Kalleberg and Sorensen, 1979). Specifically, economic and labor sociology
have revealed the importance of labor segmentation in the lives of workers
(Wilkinson, 1981). The labor market is divided in a stylized way into good
jobs (high wages, appropriate working conditions, job stability, possibilities of
advancement within a firm), and bad jobs (low wages, high labor turnover,
few possibilities for advancement)a division whereby companies seek to
achieve better control over the workforce (Braverman, 1998) and increase their
capacity for accumulation through selective precariousness (Hudson, 2007).
Labor segmentation in the contemporary world has been radicalized in the
context of the flexibilization of labor markets (Cook, 2007). For example, the
subcontracting of labor is a form of segmentation that consists of the external-
ization of administrative control and responsibility over the workforce to a
third party (Kalleberg, 2000). In the case of Latin America, Celiss (2012) edited
volume shows how this way of organizing the capitalist company changed the
relations between workers and bosses in almost every branch of production. In
mining, this shift results in companies sending their workers to provide exter-
nal services to companies that contract for them (Leiva, 2009). The phenome-
non has long existed in countries such as Peru and Chile, where mining
companies used a recruitment system to pressure poor farmers through labor
intermediaries at the end of the nineteenth century (Flores, 1974; Klubock,
1998). This system, however, was replaced in the mid-twentieth century with a
more inclusive form of employment through which companies placed most of
their workforce on the payroll, improving their living conditions (Dore, 2011).
With the structural reforms of the 1980s and 1990s, labor intermediaries began
to be used again, and today more workers are being subcontracted than are
directly employed.

Markets are divided, however, not only in terms of the interests of capital but
also in terms of spheres such as gender and racial relations (Lee, 1995; Muoz,
2008), which, although not directly linked to production, in fact affect them.
Examples in the case of the mining industry are the practice of apartheid in the
gold mines of South Africa (James, 1992) and the emergence of debates about
jobs given to indigenous communities in Canada and Australia (Havemann,
1999). Similarly, research on the role of masculine identities in mining and the
use of womens reproductive work (Ellem and Shields, 2000; Klubock, 2004)
illustrate that gender identities have been crucial in achieving greater control
over the workforce.
At the same time, the social sciences have stressed that space is key for the
configuration of relations of production (Gieryn, 2000; Tickamyer, 2000). Based
on the research of Lefebvre (1991) and Harvey (1982), these studies show that
capitalist production does not simply occupy space but configures it according
to its needs. Along this line, McKay (2006) shows that companies may use var-
ious tactics to segment workers, for example, by organizing production in
terms of the differences among local job markets. Similarly, the Chinese dormi-
tory regime illustrates how companies can take advantage of spatial control to
divide workers both by placing them in different rooms according to their
places of origin and by controlling their links with the population around the
factories (Pun and Smith, 2007).
Although the literature on mine workers barely discusses the way in which
space configures their social relations, it is clear that labor segmentation has a
spatial dimension. This article aims to open a discussion of this issue, specifi-
cally showing how the type of lodging offered to miners affects their strategies
for organizing. Understanding these socio-spatial dynamics enriches our theo-
rizing of union actions and allows us to connect studies of workers with studies
focused on the effects of mining on local communitiesfor example, the impor-
tance of segregation among workers of Peru, Bolivia, and Chile in the saltpeter
mines of Iquique (J. Pinto, 1980) or the way the spatial configuration of a city
such as Sewel in Chile (Klubock, 2004) or Cerro de Paseo in Peru (Helfgott,
2013) has generated divisions among working-class families.
During the twentieth century, following the Fordist models logic of work
organization, mining companies operating in Latin American combined mech-
anisms of segmentation with contracts of indefinite duration (Helfgott, 2013)
and the incorporation of workers families into the world of production
(Naranjo, 2005) with the aim of gaining control over the workforce. The most
important divisions were between manual workers and professional employ-
ees and according to the type of housing workers were offered. However, this
model changed after the structural reforms at the end of the twentieth century
(Cook, 2007). These reforms can be divided into two groups. First, there were
those that sought to attract foreign investors, offering contracts with fiscal sta-
bility that were favorable to companies, privatizing industries, and facilitating
land purchasing processes. In the Peruvian case, this occurred during the
Alberto Fujimori government in the 1990s, when multinational companies such
as Glencore, Barrick, and Vale began operations. The second group of reforms
occurred in labor relations. On the one hand, these facilitated the flexibilization
of labor contracts of workers on the company payroll and the use of labor

Figure 1. Strikes by sector, 19952014 (Ministerio de Trabajo, 2014).

contractors (Uriarte and Colotuzzo, 2009). In the case of mining, while before
the Fujimori government less than 20 percent of the mining workforce was
subcontracted, almost 70 percent is subcontracted today. Although there are no
exact figures for the region, similar dynamics have also been found in countries
such as Chile (Echeverra, 2010) and Colombia (Cotton and Royle, 2014). This
led to what I will call organizational segmentation, the division of workers
into different organizational structures, given that multiple employers con-
trolled the workforce.
In addition, the reforms opened the possibility of institutionalizing atypical
work schedules, allowing companies to require miners to work not 8 but 12
hours per day without receiving overtime pay on the condition that hours over
8 were compensated by extra days off. Consequently, whereas in the mining
town model companies managed services for the workers and their families,
today they only provide single rooms to their workers, who go to their homes
(usually far from the mining operations) to rest after many days in the mine.
Although the model was introduced in Canada and Australia (Storey, 2010), it
has become popular in Argentina (Correa 3 Arquitectos, 2011) and Chile (de
Laire, 1999) in the past two decades. The result is what I call spatial segmenta-
tion, a division between workers produced by the extreme spatial mobility
that results from the heterogeneity of their places of residence.
Although these reforms weakened workers organizations during the 1990s
(Manky, 2011), the increase in investment during the past decade restored their
organizational capacity (Manky, 2014). The number of strikes organized in the
sector increased from 9 in 2000 to 32 in 2014 (Figure 1). In relative terms, this

suggested an increase of 24 to 35 percent in the proportion of the national total.

Given that unionized workers number approximately 26,000 and represent
only 1.1 percent of the formal workforce (Ministerio de Trabajo, 2014), the fig-
ures reveal the importance of the mining unions. In export-oriented economies
such as the Peruvian, miners have great opportunities to mobilize because of
their privileged position in the national economy (Bergquist, 1986).
One should not, of course, assume a lack of agency on the part of workers
(Herod, 2001; Padmanabhan, 2012). Despite adverse conditions, during the
past decade miners have organized and mobilized. However, it is important to
identify who mobilized and under what conditions and whether there has been
a change in the forms of union action. In fact, I do not assume here, as has been
done in previous studies on this industry (e.g., Kerr and Siegel, 1964 [1954]),
that miners are predetermined to mobilize at the local level. On the contrary,
more recent studies show that miners have multiple possibilities for improving
their living conditions, for example, through alliances with the communities
surrounding the workplace, as in South Africa during apartheid (Crush, 1994),
in coalitions with international NGOs as among the coal miners in Colombia
(Cotton, 2015), and through associations at the national level such as those of
specialized contractors in Chile (Durn-Palma and Lpez, 2009).
In sum, this article returns to the classic actors in studies about mining in the
region. Focusing on labor segmentation, I shall first describe the mechanisms
for segmentation that have shaped identities and collective action among min-
ers in Peru and then account for how, despite this segmentation, they have
managed to organize.

Cases And Methods

In addition to being one of the most important sources of copper, gold, and
silver, since the beginning of the twentieth century Peru has seen massive
investments by foreign companies, placing its operations in the vanguard in
terms of technology and organization of production (Hiba, de Echave, and
Ospina, 2002). This creates ideal conditions for analyzing the emerging busi-
ness policies and their effects on workers. With regard to organizational seg-
mentation, I examine the Marcona iron mine, which began operations in the
mid-twentieth century under the administration of a U.S. company, the
Marcona Mining Company, and was nationalized in the 1970s and privatized
at the beginning of the 1990s. The study focuses on this last phase, when sub-
contracting affected almost 70 percent of the workforce, but the contrast to the
previous stages helps to explain the organizational segmentation that has taken
place. As it is a company that still uses the mining town model, I could compare
it with Antamina, the second case that I analyzed, which since the beginning of
its operations in 2000 has used the mining hotel model. Although the majority
of the workers at Antamina are also subcontracted, the difference is that the
workers also live under a regime that especially divides them. Far from repre-
senting ideal types or representative cases,1 these operations were chosen
because they had rich histories in terms of both the policies implemented by the
companies and their workers collective responses. Although they do not rep-

resent the totality of mining operations in Peru, their contrasts allow me to

produce hypotheses about scenarios in other mines.
The information was gathered from these companies archives and through
interviews and ethnographies. The interviews, carried out in Spanish, included
some 40 workers in each mine, in addition to informal conversations with 20 of
their spouses. The ethnographic observations were realized between 2011 and
2014 and included over two months stay in each settlement. This information
was complemented with previous studies about both cases (Gil, 2009; Goodsell,
1974; H. Pinto, 2011; Salas, 2008).


Marcona: living together, working separately

Marcona began its operations at the beginning of the 1950s. Given that the
area contained only a village, after the construction of the mine was finished
the company began an intense process of recruitment and training of workers
that included the provision of high wages and quality accommodation for the
workers and their families. Modern hospitals, schools financed by the com-
pany, and products for mass consumption were offered to the workers, giving
them a higher lifestyle level than the average local population (Goodsell, 1974).
The mining town was designed on the model of spatial segregation used in U.S.
mining towns (Dinius and Vergara, 2011). It divided its residents into three
neighborhoods: one for manual workers, one for professionals, and one, known
as the American, for the company managers. These neighborhoods had
access to different servicesfor example, a tennis court facing the sea for the
American neighborhood and a soccer field for the workers and employees
and different schools for the children depending on their parents positions in
the company.
The labor union was created in 1957, four years after the company began its
operations. Its relationship with the employer was based on the annual presen-
tation of grievances under conditions of high labor stability. Far from the clas-
sist tradition of the Central Sierra labor unions, the companys aim was a
dialoguing model of labor relations (Becker, 1982; Goodsell, 1974). The employ-
ees also organized a union, and although the law did not prohibit combining
the two unions their differences, reproduced in the daily lives of each group,
made that impossible. Martn,2 a retired worker, said, The gringos did that [the
division between employees and workers] because that is how they created an
order. . . . They treated us well, they gave us everything, and you could be pro-
moted, although with limits according to your status. . . . But, well, what more
could you ask for? (interview, Marcona, August 5, 2014).
Although the union organized strikes to pressure the company during col-
lective bargaining in the 1960s, its relationship with the employer became more
conflictive after the nationalization of the mine in 1975 (Manky, 2013). The
decline of production by almost 30 percent between 1975 and 1985, together
with inefficient management by the state (Willer, 2000), radicalized the union,
and at the end of the 1980s it led a number of mobilizations (Sulmont, 1980).

Given Marconas loss of millions in profits, the Fujimori government decided

to privatize it in 1992. Under the reforms outlined in the previous section, it
fired approximately 1,500 of the 3,000 workers to make the mine more attrac-
tive to investors. As a result, the links that workers had developed in the course
of 40 years at Marcona were broken, and even those who stayed were afraid of
losing their jobs. According to the 1993 census, the population of Marcona was
12,988 in 1993, down from 18,321 in 1981. Pedro Rivas, a worker who had been
20 years old at the time, remembered: We continued to live together, but a
third of the workers neighborhood was closed. So we lived through the 1990s
in fear of getting fired or being outsourced (interview, Marcona, June 12, 2014).
After buying the mine, Shougang Hierro Per replaced its fired workers by
subcontracting. It sought companies that offered a wide range of services, from
the most basic, such as office cleaning or private security, to the very special-
ized, such as the installation of explosives or high technology. Twenty years
later, almost 70 percent of Marconas workers are subcontracted, and the com-
pany coordinates with more than 80 service supplier firms (Ministerio de
Energa y Minas, 2013). Consistent with the results of studies carried out in
Chile (Leiva and Campos, 2013), the wages, job security, labor stability, and
social benefits of Marconas subcontracted workers are significantly lower than
those of miners directly employed by the company. Through the triangulation
of the unions files and interviews with workers of both groups I learned that
the subcontracted workers wages were approximately 30 percent lower than
those of directly employed workers, even when they had the same qualifica-
tions and similar jobs. Similarly, the subcontracted workers tended to have 20
percent more accidents and, not being on the company payroll, had temporary
contracts (which complicated their joining a union because of the fear of being
fired) and lacked access to benefits.
In addition to reconfiguring the redistribution of the mines surplus, this
organizational segmentation affected the very identity of Marconas workers.
Workers who considered themselves miners before 1990 see themselves as
security guards, maintenance personnel, or crane operators today. As David,
who works for a company that repairs trucks, put it, I never worked with
minerals. I only fix Shougangs equipment. . . . For us the only miners here are
those who are on the payroll (interview, Marcona, October 10, 2014). In my
interviews, only those core workers directly employed by Shougang consid-
ered themselves miners.
After 1992 the company replaced laid-off workers with the sons or younger
relatives of Marconas workers. These younger workers, pursuing work in the
midst of an economic crisis, were willing to accept unfavorable working condi-
tions. Today these subcontracted miners experience their difference from payroll
workers every day. Because the company does not provide them with housing
on the premises, they live in apartments on the outskirts of the settlement, and
they do not receive the same health care or food as workers employed directly.
The massive use of subcontracted labor weakened the bargaining power of
the union. For example, while organizing effective strikes was possible when
the union represented the majority of the mines workforce, it eventually came
to incorporate only 35 percent of the workforce. At the same time, subcon-
tracted workers are restricted by law to negotiating with the company that

employs them directly. They cannot negotiate better employment conditions

with Shougang. Finally, direct employees and subcontracted workers tended
to organize separately through the nineties. A leader of the first union of sub-
contracted workers summed up the situation: We organize by ourselves, even
though we live next to the houses of miners, because we know that they will
not help us. . . . They live comfortably, and we are exploited. We are their poor
neighbors, not their partners in struggle.
While during the 1990s workers found themselves in a precarious situation
as a result of the immediate effects of structural reforms and Fujimoris author-
itarian government (Burt, 2007), the return to democracy, and the increase in
the price of minerals broadened their scope for action. The union for directly
hired workers organized its first strikes since 1989 in 2001 and has achieved
certain improvements in working conditions in recent years (Manky, 2014).
However, the most important process of union reactivation began in 2003,
when the subcontracted workers of Shougang took the first steps toward orga-
nizing into a single union. This had not occurred in any mining operation
before and was possible because of the constant interaction among workers not
only in the workplace but also in the town: bars, soccer fields, and parks func-
tioned as places to compare problems and seek common solutions. A mainte-
nance worker pointed out, We had different employers, but in the end we are
all from Marcona, and we have learned that Shougang is the real boss here . . .
so all the subcontracted workers decided to negotiate together.
The subcontracted workers union was officially launched in 2014, having
managed to organize workers of more than four companies working in differ-
ent areas of the mine. Its leaders were four workers who were sons of workers
on the Shougang payroll. When their demands were rejected, the subcontracted
workers organized various mobilizations that managed to paralyze the town.
Their wives and partners played a key role in these mobilizations. As in other
Peruvian mining towns (Naranjo, 2005), a ladies committee was organized to
support the organization during strikes by setting up communal kitchens and
participating in marches. After blocking the road leading to the mine and even
burning the company buildings, the workers pressured Shougang into talks
with the union, and in 2007 the Ministry of Labor required the company to put
some 200 subcontracted workers on its payroll. According to ministry officials,
the company had been hiding labor relationships behind commercial contracts
specifically aimed at reducing labor costs (H. Pinto, 2011).
Although the union of directly employed workers did not participate in this
process during 2005 and 2008, the formerly subcontracted workers who were
put on the payroll conducted a campaign to raise consciousness about the situ-
ation of subcontracted workers. Although it was a very slow process, this
allowed the union of directly employed workers to support the subcontracted
workers union with legal aid and logistic advice during its mobilizations. Thus
when the leaders of the recently created union at the subcontracting company
Copsol were fired in April 2015, they received the active support of the
Shougang union and the townspeople of Marcona, who helped them organize
massive mobilizations, roadblocks, and occupations of the company outlets,
paralyzing operations for almost three weeks (El Comercio, May 25, 2015).
Although the results of these mobilizations were still uncertain when I wrote
this article, the workers strategy had not changed since 2004.

Antamina: Part-Time Miners

While Shougangs workers are divided by complex organizational struc-

tures, living in Marcona has allowed them to create ties that have helped them
improve their labor situation over the past decade. The experience of living
together in a settlement, however, is increasingly rare in the mining industry.
In fact, no operation that began after 1993 has used a model like that of Marcona.
The use of hotel-type lodgings has confronted workers not only with organiza-
tional segmentation but also with spatial segmentation. The case of Antamina
exemplifies this situation.
Miners at Antamina work 12 hours a day for 10 days and then return home
to rest for 10 days. When the company began operations in 2000, it required a
workforce with a higher level of education than that provided in the local labor
market. Whereas Marcona decided to train workers who had migrated with
their families 50 years ago, Antamina, which subcontracts around 60 percent of
its workforce, recruited personnel from cities such as Lima, Arequipa, and
Huaraz. Thus, in contrast with Marcona, Antamina separated the production
of minerals and the social reproduction of workers. According to the unions
files, no more than 30 percent of its members live in Ancash, the region where
the mine is located, and the majority live in the countrys largest cities. In addi-
tion, after a 12-hour workday the miners return to rooms where noise and light-
ing and the hours when the television is on are regulated so that workers can
rest for at least 8 hours before returning to work.
As a result, spatial segmentation occurs at two points there.First, within the
settlement, workers do not usually interact after work. Although the company
has given the union a space to hold meetings and although there are shared
spaces such as gyms and soccer fields, after 12 hours of work miners prefer to
go and rest instead of talking about their daily problems. Second, since workers
go to different cities on their days off, it is uncommon for them to gather to
coordinate actions regarding the company or the union or even to form solid
ties of companionship. Their spatial mobility impedes the coordination of col-
lective actions at the local level in the classic Latin American style of mining
unionism (Manky, 2016; Zapata, 1977).
Antaminas union demands are focused not on improving lodging condi-
tions or on the relationship between the company and its surroundings but on
economic issues. According to a union leader who lives in Lima, more than 15
hours drive from the mine, The majority of workers are not worried about the
complaints about environmental pollution, because they and their families are
not affected (Fernando, interview, Lima, January 5, 2015). Some of the leaders
I interviewed were aware of the gap between workers and local actors: We
know that they are envious of us, because we earn good money and we are not
from here. . . . The truth is that many of us have not worried about what the
company is doing here, because theyre not our people (Manuel, interview,
Huaraz, April 8, 2014).
The other side of the absence of a solid identity within the union and the dif-
ficulty of coordination of action at the local level is the diversity of workers
activities on their days off. The workers accept this model because they can con-
tinue to live in big cities that provide specialized services to their families without
giving up the opportunity for well-paid work. While their children can go to

good schools and get a college education, they themselves can pursue personal
activities that are unavailable in a mining town such as taking college courses or
starting a small business. Having 10 consecutive days off allows them to work on
personal projects. Consequently, their identities contrast with those of Marconas
workers, since they do not perceive themselves only as miners. Pedro summed
up the situation as follows: To my son I am a businessman, because I have my
restaurant, and I do well . . . and I also earned my law degree two years ago, so
here [at the mine] I am a miner but in Trujillo I am a lawyer and a businessman.
I am a part-time miner (interview, Trujillo, February 6, 2015).
Although a ladies committee is formally established in the union statutes,
there is no such committee here. In fact, the majority of mineworkers partners
do not know each other. For the majority of my interviewees, womens role is
circumscribed to the private sphere, for they are in charge of organizing the
home when the men are away. Therefore, they dislike the fact that their hus-
bands actively participate in the union, since this takes up time that they might
devote to domestic chores. In contrast with the situation in Marcona, where
union gatherings are also meetings of neighbors, Antaminas workers com-
mented on how difficult it was to balance time spent with the family, union,
and work.
Thus, organizational segmentation at Antamina repeats many of the dynam-
ics found at Shougang, but it is combined with spatial segmentation, which
affects even those workers directly employed by the company. Although they
work together, their schedules and days off from work are devoted to the pri-
vate sphere. The situation of subcontracted workers is even more precarious.
Many of them do not even share a place to live but live in apartments rented by
the employers in the nearby city of San Marcos.
The various companies have different scheduling systems, making coordi-
nation for possible common actions difficult. As a person working at the dining
hall said, I dont know anyone here. I only serve food, and every day I get on
a bus that takes me to a hotel to sleep . . . and thats how it is until I return to my
home in Huaraz [a city over five hours drive from San Marcos] to rest (Martn,
interview, San Marcos, April 2, 2014). At Antamina, as in other companies using
the hotel model, such as Yanacocha, Barrick, and Antapaccay, subcontracted
workers have not organized into a union. In contrast, subcontracted workers
federations have been launched at mines where workers live in the same place,
as in Oyon, Morococha, and Cerro de Pasco.
Under these circumstances, Antamina workers have experienced difficulties
in organizing locally. Despite their dissatisfaction with their working condi-
tions, there were only two strikes between 2000 and 2014. One of their leaders
reported, Although we would like to halt production, not only are we the
minority compared with the subcontracted workers but also only half of us are
present in the settlement at any given time (Fernando, interview, Lima,
January 5, 2015). While in the mining town model workers can be ready to
protest even on their days off, the hotel model used by Antamina makes this
impossible, and even organizing meetings is difficult.
This does not, however, mean that Antamina workers lack bargaining power.
In fact, it is possible to identify novel collective strategies, at least when com-
pared with those described in previous studies about Peruvian workers
(Sulmont, 1980). Thus, in an attempt to take advantage of its members spatial

mobility, the union seeks to have them act in different places at the same time.
Although I did not find evidence in the union minutes of more than two
monthly meetings of all its directors (this is very difficult given that they live in
different cities), I found traces of national-level coordination. Some directors
may be looking for site inspectors in Huaraz while others are making contact
with politicians in Chimbote and with environmental nongovernmental orga-
nizations in Lima, all without expending too many resources.
This active use of the greater spatial mobility allows the construction of alli-
ances beyond the local scale. These strategies occur on at least two levels. First,
at the national one the union has sought to participate in the activities of the
Peruvian Mining Federation, in which it has a representative, in an attempt to
learn what happens in other mines. Some of its leaders have met with other
miners employed by multinational corporations and even tried to contact civil
society organizations to put pressure on them. Martn, who has worked in
other mining operations in the Central Sierra, said, Since it is difficult to orga-
nize strikes as we did in the 1970s, we apply pressure from all possible places
(interview, San Marcos, January 15, 2014).
Secondly, almost a dozen leaders interviewed at Antamina spoke about hav-
ing some contact with union leaders in Colombia, Canada, and Brazil, where
BHP Billiton and Glencore, the principal owners of the company, had invest-
ments. Through alliances with Canadian organizations, the leaders had trav-
eled to North America to learn about the strategies of unions there. One of the
leaders stated, Since 2013 we have been trying to know precisely how other
union leaders in Latin America are dealing with the argument that this is the
end of the mining boom. . . . That is crucial for improving our own tactics
(Freddy, interview, Lima, January 5, 2015). Although this work has just begun,
it has already had positive results, among them recommending the use of dif-
ferent sources of information about the financial status of the company and,
more generally, the initiation of a joint learning process about the global dynam-
ics of the mining sector through shared information. Of course, this is still com-
plicated if we compare it with the ties developed by environmental movements
(Bebbington, 2011) or even with the unionism in the textile or automotive sec-
tors in other countries in the region (Anner, 2011). However, the increased spa-
tial mobility of mining workers brings, along with a series of limitations for
local organizing, the possibility of networking with transnational actors linked
to the mining industry or global unions.


This article has illustrated two forms of labor segmentation that Peruvian
mining workers face. The case studies show dynamics that are similar to those
in other Latin America mines (Cotton and Royle, 2014; Dinius and Vergara,
2011; Leiva and Campos, 2013). Previous studies have shown that mining
workers have been subject to divisions along the lines of status (employees/
laborers) (Arcienaga, 1986), gender (Finn, 1998), or place of origin (Flores, 1974).
Although this has an impact on their capacity to organize, historically they
have been able, as in Bolivia and Chile, to mobilize within their settlements,
organizing strikes and demonstrations that gave them bargaining power even

at the national level.

This article has analyzed new forms of segmentation developed in contem-
porary mining. Organizational segmentation reduces the capacity to mobilize
by turning workers who are directly employed by the company into a minority
and altering the identities and structural positions of subcontracted workers.
The case of Marcona sheds light on how pernicious this has been for the latter,
who are not only employed by different companies but have lower status than
direct employees. In this regard, it is worth mentioning that mining is not an
isolated case; subcontracting has had similar consequences in other economic
sectors, weakening union organizations in most of Latin America. While orga-
nizational segmentation at Marcona has been partly overcome by the ability of
subcontracted workers to form a union, this has not occurred at Antamina,
where spatial segmentation makes local-level coordination difficult. The emer-
gence of the mining hotel model, an expression of the neoliberal restructuring
of the end of the past century (Castells, 1996), shows that even in an industry
as fixed in location as mining capitalism has managed to provoke spatial
mobility in its workers.
This article has shown the importance of being aware of the spatial policies
developed in contemporary capitalism, given the effects that they may have on
collective action. In operations where the hotel model has not expanded, such
as Marcona, Casapalca, and Uchucchacua, unions use a repertoire of strikes
and mobilizations with the support of local communities. Significantly, these
three mines organized some 25 percent of the mining strikes between 2000 and
2014 (Ministerio de Trabajo, 2014). At the same time, the unions of companies
operating under a hotel model such as Antamina, Barrick, and Antapaccay
have managed to overcome their spatial segmentation by organizing outside
the mine operations, for example, by resorting to extralocal coalitions rather
than strikes. Workers appear to be developing strategies to confront their
inability to act in a settlement that no longer supports the construction of solid
This study suggests three questions for future research. First, we must look
for data that allow us to observe how general these trends are, perhaps by
comparing Peru with other Latin American mining countries. Second, we
must examine the extent to which the mining hotel model affects the coordina-
tion of actions with the communities affected by mining activity. Beyond labor
studies, a focus on the production of space (and on the space of production)
might reveal interactions that have been invisible. Finally, we also need to
study mining workers organizations at the national level in order to analyze
more systematically the role of miners in the political sphere.


1. It is possible, however, to place these mines in context. Although Marcona is a unique case
given that it still maintains a classic mining settlement, many mines that were part of the Cerro
Pasco Corporation use a similar model, although todays workers are mainly displaced to nearby
towns instead of living in a closed camp managed by the company. This also occurs with mid-
range mining operations such as Uchucchacua (Buenaventura). In contrast, the model of Antamina
is similar to that used in operations that began after 1990 such as Yanacocha and Lagunas Norte.

Between the two models would fall mines that, although operating before the 1990s, have changed
their spatial structures from a town to a hotel model, such as Toquepala and Tintaya.
2. This and all other names are pseudonyms.


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