Argentina’s main grains port workers’ unions launch new wage strike

Argentine grains inspectors and oilseed workers started a new wage strike on Wednesday, organizers said in a joint statement, as stalling contract negotiations threatened to interrupt exports from one of the world’s main bread baskets.

Argentina, a top global supplier of corn, soybeans and wheat, is prone to work stoppages as employers are hard-pressed to increase wages faster than the country’s high inflation rate. Argentina is the world’s top exporter of soymeal livestock feed, used to fatten hogs and poultry from Europe to Southeast Asia.

“Given the persistent lack of willingness on the part of export companies to reach a wage contract, the struggle continues,” a statement from the country’s oilseed workers federation said.

Gustavo Idigoras, head of Argentina’s CIARA-CEC export companies’ chamber, said the labor organizations were asking for excessive salary increases.

“We are still in conflict,” he told Reuters. “We reiterate that we need to reach a mutual agreement but we need the unions to change their request and to accept that salary increases must be at the same level of inflation during the year,” he said.

The URGARA union, representing workers who inspect grains at port, also issued a statement announcing the strike.

“Initially the work stoppage is for 24 hours. We will later evaluate whether to extend it for another 24 hours,” it said.

Also on Wednesday, the SOEA union representing oilseed crushing workers in the northern part of Argentina’s main agricultural export hub of Rosario issued a statement saying they would begin a work stoppage later in the day.

The union said members would meet on Thursday afternoon to decide whether to halt or extend the strike.

Argentina’s grains sector has been hit by a spate of strikes and contract stand-offs with unions throughout the production and export chain. Corn and soy, the country’s main cash crops, are currently being planted. With wheat harvesting having just started, December is not peak export season.

Given a weakening local peso currency, farmers are largely holding onto their crops. They report only as much selling as necessary to pay debts and production costs. This has been an additional factor slowing the pace of exports over recent weeks.
Source: Reuters (Reporting by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Kirsten Donovan and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)

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