SANTIAGO – Chilean customs agents ended a nine-day strike that had partially paralyzed overland exports and imports after reaching an agreement with the government on boosting staff.
“We’ve signed a historic agreement for our organization and for Chile’s union and labor movement, and we secured a 50 percent increase in staff,” Marcelo Reyes, the president of the National Association of Customs Officers of Chile, or Anfach, told reporters Thursday.
The government’s proposal calls for gradually increasing the number of customs employees from 1,682 at present to 2,300 by 2018.
In addition, all workers on temporary contracts will become permanent staff.
The strikers had rejected an earlier government proposal, saying it did not go far enough in meeting their demands.
Chile’s National Customs Service activated a contingency plan during the strike that included sending some replacement workers to the busiest border posts, while customs agents also worked emergency shifts.
The nationwide strike put Chile’s 17 regional customs offices partially out of service, causing long lines at the Santiago international airport, hours-long delays at border crossings and tens of millions of dollars in foreign-trade losses.
Representatives of fruit exporters, truckers and salmon producers called on the government to reach a deal to end the strike, the longest of its kind in the past 50 years.
Chile’s CNDC trucking association said Tuesday that the week-long strike by the country’s customs agents had paralyzed 95 percent of overland exports and imports and was costing the economy $10 million a day.
The CNDC estimated that 30,000 trucks – half the country’s commercial fleet – were sitting at border posts, though the government disputed the association’s figures.
The SalmonChile trade association said Monday that salmon producers were unable to export 6,000 tons of frozen products and 5,000 tons of fresh fish, estimating the sector’s losses at more than $30 million.