SANTIAGO – Chile’s government and the port workers’ unions reached an accord Saturday that can resolve the strike that has shut down a dozen ports up and down the country for more than three weeks, union officials said.
The agreement was reached in the early hours Saturday after a meeting that went on for more than 14 hours at the Labor Ministry, whose head, Juan Carlos Jobet, led the government side of the negotiations to bring companies and workers together.
Port workers’ spokesman Sergio Vargas said the accord must be ratified by the companies if it is to take effect.
As long as the businessmen don’t sign the document, “the strike goes on.”
Export sectors estimate losses caused by the strike at around $1 billion, especially in exports of fruit, vegetables and food products in general.
Workers are demanding – retroactive to 2005 – half an hour’s pay for break time that was deemed by their employers to be “time not worked.” They also demand the right to collective bargaining.
Participating in the meeting were 26 union leaders from the ports of Iquique, Antofagasta, Huasco, Mejillones, Valparaiso, San Antonio, San Vicente, Coronel, Lirquen and Talcahuano.
“These have been a tough three days and we’re seeing here the workers’ determination to come to an agreement. Now what’s missing are the employers, who have to review this accord and let’s hope they sign it,” Vargas told the reporters.
The port strike has been under way for a month at some ports, including Chile’s main maritime terminals.
Some two weeks ago, six police officers were injured and the offices of the Ultraport company were wrecked during a march by about 100 striking port workers in the northern Chilean city of Antofagasta.