Since last week Wednesday a strike is disrupting activity at key river ports that ship a significant portion of Argentina's grain and edible oil exports to global markets, with unionized workers blocking access to additional ports demanding higher pay.
A pay strike at key Argentine grains ports that is disrupting exports from one of the world's biggest food suppliers could worsen if it is not resolved soon, a union leader said yesterday.
Walter Cabrera, secretary general of the San Lorenzo chapter of Argentina's powerful Confederacion General de Trabajadores union umbrella group, said workers are currently picketing 17 ports to demand higher wages for its members who work in and around the ports.
"We are demanding equal wages for all the workers in the oilseed crushing/port complex," Cabrera said.
The strike, which has paralyzed soy-crushing plants and port terminals in the northern Rosario area, helped lift US soy futures last week but has had a minimal effect because farmers have yet to start corn and soybean harvesting.
"We're going to ask them not to suspend people, or take away their jobs. If that were to happen there'll be clashes," said Pablo Reguera, secretary-general of the San Lorenzo oil workers union, based in one of the major ports outside Rosario.
The labour action has virtually paralyzed export facilities and crushing plants operated by Cargill, Bunge, Molinos Rio de la Plata, Vicentin and ACA.
The protesting workers, who belong to the local branch of the CGT umbrella union, are demanding the same 5,000-peso ($1,208) minimum monthly wage secured by soy-crushing workers, who staged a two-day strike last month.
Although the CGT workers make up only 13% of all those employed by grain export firms, they are blocking access to members of the crushing unions who could be sanctioned if they fail to go to work.
Soy-crushing plants in and around the central city of Rosario account for about 80% of soybean oil and meal output from the top global exporter, but activity is slow at this time of year because the harvest has yet to begin.