Peru's largest federation of mining unions said over the weekend it has agreed to call a nationwide strike starting on March 15, to protest mounting job cuts and to pressure Congress to lift caps on profit sharing.

Peru is the world's top producer of silver, No.2 in copper and zinc, and often ranks fifth in gold output.

The strike date was set at a membership meeting of the National Federation of Mine and Steel Workers, Peru's biggest organization of mining unions.

The strike has been approved for March 15, Luis Castillo, the group's head told Reuters in a phone conversation.

Mine workers are upset by job cuts spurred by the global economic crisis, which has slammed prices for most of Peru's metal exports, the government's largest revenue source.

According to the mining federation, more than 5,500 workers have lost their jobs since December, while the Labor Ministry puts the figure at 4,000.

Unions also want better working conditions and for Peru's Congress to lift caps on profit sharing.

Last year, the federation held a nearly one-week strike, which hit some key mines and helped push global copper prices to record highs. The work stoppage had a minimal impact on production as managers called in temporary workers. (Reporting by Dana Ford, editing by Maureen Bavdek)

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