Chile: San Antonio port union declares strike "indefinite"
In an act that feels like déjà vu for Chile's fruit industry, workers in the Port of San Antonio have been striking since Friday in a push for retroactive lunchbreak pay, in the terminals of STI, the Central Port and the Panul Port. While last year's crippling stoppages were in solidarity with the Port of Angamos, this year the issue relates directly to the port at hand; the largest fruit exporting hub for the Southern Hemisphere's largest fruit exporter. To better understand the situation, www.freshfruitportal.com caught up with port union president Sergio Vargas.
Vargas confirms that the strike is of an indefinite nature as he is still waiting to hear from the government to propose a solution to the problem.
"The truth is that there is no progress. We are waiting for the government to call is to speak and resolve this problem. Until now, we have only had an unofficial meeting with the Transport Minister and the Deputy Secretary of Transport," he said.
When asked about the possibility of strikes in the country's north and south, the union leader believed that at some point they would begin to relate to the problems, and if they wanted to join the San Antonio Port movement they would be in their rights to do so.
"The truth is that different problems begin to cross. We are seeing an issue that has to do with the retroactive payment of a half-hour lunch. This is our problem...if you analyze it, it's an issue that crosses the whole country, all Chilean ports, and therefore it's most likely that the rest of the ports in the country start to join the mobilization.
When asked about how the situation affects importers and exporters from Chile's fruit industry, he said the unionists were aware of the damage these strikes caused, indicating that measures were being taken to safeguard products.
"We have consideration for all the productive sectors of the country, we know how damaging this movement is, but we are not left with another alternative," he said.
"Ethical shifts don't exist in the ports, but we are doing is that there is control in the issue of container refrigeration so that the fruit doesn't go off. There is a guard who is constantly monitoring the processes."
Fruit growers' view
In a press release the Chilean Fruit Grower Federation (Fedefruta) made a call for an "immediate understanding between all parties involved in the new port strike in San Antonio".
In the document, Fedefruta president Cristián Allendes emphasized that growers did not play a role in negotiations, but "ended up being the most damaged after an entire year of work in the orchards".
"As port users we cannot be at the whim of negotiations between syndicates, private companies or executives," he added.
He highlighted the importance and urgency of the need for a regulatory framework that avoided damages from these types of mobilizations, urging the Congress to discuss a bill so that perishable products are not affected.
"this is of the utmost ipmortant for us as a sector."
Among the fruit in cold storage in the Port of San Antonio include cherries, peaches, blueberries, grapes and plums. Similar strikes that occurred in March last year led to more than US$200 million in losses for the sector.