Chile: San Antonio port workers get back on the job
A Port of San Antonio representative has told www.freshfruitportal.com that dockworkers are back on deck after a second deal to end strikes was reached with them at 10:30pm yesterday.
While the agreement means the port - usually accounting for around a third of Chile's fruit exports - is back to normal, the response from Chilean Fruit Exporters' Association (ASOEX) president Ronald Bown was bittersweet.
"We call on the authorities to conduct a very deep analysis of what issues are involved, so that the concession holders are calm and the port workers are in agreement," he told www.freshfruitportal.com.
On Saturday, workers, companies and the government signed a multi-party pact that was supposed to end the conflict, but an unexpected worker selection decision from operator Puerto Central prompted dockworkers to picket once more on Monday night. This prompted a heated press conference with fruit industry leaders yesterday.
The port representative could not give details of the second deal, but said it addressed the concerns of workers. Bown emphasized that perhaps it would not be released to the public as it was internal, but it supposedly ensured the terms of Saturday's agreement were met.
But does this guarantee there won't be any more strikes?
"It has to be that way, as the first agreement reached between the government, the port workers and the concession holders effectively said that until May 1 there would not be any strikes," Bown said.
"We are not in agreement with this as it doesn't have a long term vision to analyze and evaluate so that this doesn't happen again; it cannot be that the strikes finish this year, but that next year it happens again."
He said negotiations between parties involved needed to change in future instances of dispute, with more efficiency in the bargaining process.
"That efficiency should mean that workers are in agreement with what is defined under the new management.
"The worst of it all is that clients have doubts about Chile’s capacity to provide adequately, and they’ll start to look for other suppliers."
At the request of www.freshfruitportal.com, ASOEX has released a report of Chile's fruit exports between when the strike began on Jan. 3 until Jan. 27, emphasizing the decline registered was not just because of strikes but also the impacts of frosts experienced in September.
Total fruit exports for the period were down 24% year-on-year at 136,972 metric tons (MT), and the reduction was understandably larger at 29.7% for seafreight shipments, which dropped to 126,332MT.
San Antonio's fruit exports plummeted by 97.1% with just 1,464MT leaving the port, while fruit export traffic rose for other shipping hubs like Valparaiso (8%) and Coquimbo (15.3%).
Ports in the Biobio region, where strikes also occurred, were down 81%, but the overall contribution was low at just 1,000MT.
In response to the crisis, airfreight exports of cherries and blueberries were up 78% year-on-year at 2,787MT.