The Payroll System and the "Gold Roll"
I have to tell you about the payroll. The payroll was divided
into three sections. The top jobs were called "gold roll", the
second jobs were "empleados [employees] on pesos," and the third
jobs were "obreros, or workers, on pesos". The Chileans could
get up to the "empleados on peso" roll, but the gold roll, of
the 400 maybe there were only four or five Chileans.
Why do they call it gold roll? Because when they first
started the operations in 1915, Braden Copper Company smelted
down to matte and sometimes to blister, and the only source of
people who really knew the smelting and some concentrating,
which were air cells, were in England. They wouldn't come out
for Chilean pesos, but they came out for penigues, or gold
coins. That's how you get a converter foreman or a smelter
foreman or a flotation foreman, usually Welsh or English or
Cockney--you pay them in gold coins. That became the "gold
Old RR bridge & barracks at ghost town of Sewell, Chile,
UNESCO World Heritage site
Later they stopped paying gold and paid them in United
States dollars. And, of course, for years we had a black
market, where the official rate was 30, and you could go out and
get 150. If this fellow earned 50, and that one earned 100, and
this is 150, actually he was earning 500 if you went on
the curb for the black market.
Swent: Did they ever pay in dollars in the States?
deposit your pay in the States for you?
Haldeman: Oh, yes, they deposited it in the States, and then you'd cash a
check or you could charge. For years, until 1955, I lived on
chits and never used any American currency.
As we replaced these jobs in the gold roll (they've cut out
the gold roll, because it's nationalized, and they couldn't do
that; that was an Ugly American habit), they earned dollars, and
we paid them the same salary at the job they replaced. Of
course, the Chileans who got up into that position just became
rich; they could buy a car and this and that. Work? Oh, my
gosh. Eight hours? That wasn't the shift; the wives would call
them up and tell them to come home. And you built loyalty with
a lot of pay and the fact that they were recognized as equals.
Index to Haldeman Interview