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Space The Almighty Buck Science

Workers at Chile's ALMA Telescope Strike Over Working Conditions 274

An anonymous reader writes with this snippet from Deutsche Welle: "'Employees at the world's largest radio telescope have gone on strike after failing to reach agreement over pay and conditions. Workers say they are not sufficiently compensated for isolation and high altitude.' The strike started on Thursday, and the telescope is currently not operating. Although the project's budget is $1.1 billion, an ALMA technician earns less than $2,000 per month. How does this compare with people working at observatories in the U.S., Japan, or the European Union?"
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Workers at Chile's ALMA Telescope Strike Over Working Conditions

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  • by niftydude ( 1745144 ) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @08:45AM (#44663131)

    Although the project's budget is $1.1 billion, an ALMA technician earns less than $2.000 per month.

    1) Project budget is $1.1 billion. Sure, but over how many years? 1, 5, 10? Comparing a large number over many years to a monthly rate is disingenuous.

    2) $2.000. WTF? Only some few european countries still use "." as a thousands separator instead of ",". This is an english language website, use english locale settings because to everyone else, that reads as $2.00 a month, which obviously has to be wrong.

    3) Where does the $2000 a month figure come from anyway? It isn't in tfa. Citation needed.

    And yes, I'm grumpy, I'm working because I have a major deadline next week.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 24, 2013 @08:46AM (#44663137)

    So would you get minimum wage technicians to operate a state-of-the-art gear like are these telescopes?

    What could go wrong?

  • by ThreeKelvin ( 2024342 ) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @09:04AM (#44663209)

    No - striking shows the employer that the employees will not work under the terms set forth, but wouldn't mind doing the work if they could come to terms. It's a lighter version of finding a new job - and a rather more appropriate response in many cases.

    Now, the employer can respond in a number of ways. Just to name a few; She can fire the employees if she thinks that the pay is adequete to attract new employees, she can wait the employees out, or she can enter negotiations. You know - just like any other free market where people are negotiating prices and conditions.

    (On that note: I really don't get why some Americans are so much in favor of a free market when it concerns goods, but very much against it when it's labor.)

  • by Joining Yet Again ( 2992179 ) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @09:12AM (#44663251)

    Because Americans aren't generally in favour of a free market. They're under the yoke of protestant work ethic, which is servitude with an essentially religious basis.

    A free market would see workers refusing to work with non-union workers, and unions regularly campaigning for higher wages until there was a more equitable distribution of wealth. But the laws in many states/countries have made this illegal or practically impossible.

  • by SynFlood ( 8769 ) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @09:17AM (#44663277)

    Dude, i invite you to work in ALMA for a month, a 16,000 ft, with temps as low as 14 F , and winds of 32m/s for $12.50 per our on 12 hour shift with out bathroom or a descent place to eat.... then we can talk

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 24, 2013 @10:45AM (#44663719)

    Odd. Either my spanish is far worse than I think, or your webpage says that it is about the money. [] Of course, your page also says it has been a year since the inauguration of the telescope when it clearly has not.

    Without really understanding all the details I have no idea if the union is making reasonable or unreasonable demands. However, you really should try to communicate a clear, consistent, and factually correct message. Making small errors like getting the 1 year wrong makes everyone wonder about all the facts they can't verify. If you can't tell 1 year from about 6 months how do we know you can tell fair pay from unfair pay?

    Quick note on the pro and anti-union debate: guys, sometimes unions are good, like when they save workers from truly unfair wages and force the correction of dangerous work conditions. Sometimes they are bad, like when they prevent the employer from compensating each employee according to their performance, or when they prevent them from firing an employee for spending 100% of their work time goofing around on slashdot (and other non-work web activities). The devil is in the details, and in this case almost nobody on slashdot has them.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday August 24, 2013 @11:48AM (#44664139)

    There is a bathroom. Its in this building []. There is also a nice room in there where everyone can eat, with a microwave and hot drinks. Sack lunches are provided (free, as part of site food service), and sometimes hot food can be had. It is also common to eat a sack lunch in the cab of a car, or sometimes just the base of the antenna. Management is fine with leaving the car engine running and heater on, so heated in the car is best if you don't want to drive back to the building. Oxygen bottles with the noise tubes are provided - and strongly encouraged. Though many employees don't like using them.

    Of course, you only hear SynFlood's side of things because all non-union employees are directed not comment on the ongoing strike, which is why I am posting as AC. Some of his points are valid and a real problem. The food is bad, and should be better. The 12 hour days are real, and stupid - it should be 10 for the same total pay, giving workers more time to relax, call friends/family, or take a shuttle into San Pedro. But some of his points are not valid, and misrepresenting the issue makes solving the real problems that much harder.

  • by SynFlood ( 8769 ) on Saturday August 24, 2013 @11:49AM (#44664147)

    at the beggining, of the negotiation, the money part was the one that get more publicity by the media, but there was a lot of other points, personally i'm not on strike for the salary, but for the condition , of course i will not reject if my salary is increased ;) , but the central point IMHO is the condition of work and how our employee interact with us

      (i'm not part of the union directive, jus a union member, speaking for myself!)

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