Chilean exporters threaten legal action over port strikes

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Chilean exporters threaten legal action over port strikes

Update (Jan. 29): The Port of San Antonio has confirmed operations are back to normal after an agreement was reached with dockworkers. For more on the issue, and fruit export statistics over the striking period, click here.

Indignation and confusion defined the day in Chile, as representatives of the nation's fruit industry called for a second ending to the San Antonio port strike. PC290244

Although a multi-party agreement ended the three-week strike on Saturday, reports of renewed stoppages began to buzz late Monday evening, leading up to today's comments from the National Agricultural Society (SNA), Fedefruta and ASOEX.

Comments from Fedefruta president Cristián Allendes sharply reflected sectoral anger and the overall confusion generated by the labor situation.

During Allendes' comments to the press, an unidentified man attempted to hand him a cell phone call for unspecified reasons. The man stood waiting behind Allendes and before the national press, as the federation president described the rapidly growing anger and plummeting confidence in the nation's export sector.

The unusual scene felt emblematic of the disorienting lot the Chilean industry finds itself in, which would almost be farcical if it weren't so serious. Allendes said the situation had been described by some as a "cry fest," although he begged to differ.

"In reality, this is not a cry fest. It's a festival of indignation. We are very, very angry. Chile does not deserve this. We do not deserve this. Our workers do not deserve this," he said.

"Our sector is extremely annoyed. This is not a problem with exporters. This is a problem with people behind the export companies."

SNA president Patricio Crespo called for legal action to pay for damages undertaken by the export sector, although he did not yet specific to whom such a lawsuit would apply.

Tuesday's press conference left clear that not all export companies remained in agreement following Saturday's compromise, but speakers refrained from finger pointing at any operator in particular.

"As a sector, we are considering legal actions to be proceeded with as resources of protection to bring before the appeals court," Crespo said, addressing the press from SNA's headquarters in Santiago.

His words included a call to the Chilean government to take responsibility as port owner and place pressure on port administrators to carry out their duties.

"Someone needs to take initiative and that initiative should be taken by the state to sit the parties down and arrive at a new labor agreement to secure the continuous operation of the ports," he said.

ASOEX president Ronald Bown said that although current worker demands are valid, they do not reflect the weekend's round-table agreement.

"Unfortunately, the central port has not arrived at the same terms as the terms established on Saturday. The workers at Puerto Central have returned to strike and are making calls to other ports.

"We have the letters provided by Puerto Central and its workers and they are very good letters and very good answers, but it is not what was agreed upon on Saturday," Bown said.

He asked that Saturday's agreement be fulfilled as established and that other changes be considered further down the road.

"We want to take all action necessary so that the ports provide the services that they’ve been called upon to do. We don’t want to accept this type of problem anymore because the users are not responsible and we shouldn’t have to pay for this," he said.

"Today, this implicates not just our tremendous harvest but also brings uncertainty to Chile’s second greatest export industry after copper. We are not open to the number of problems this is exposing us to or the commercial uncertainty."

Related stories: Chilean port situation degenerates again

Chilean port strike over


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