Port: union initiates sectoral strikes and questions the government’s response

After a 24-hour stoppage in the Port of Montevideo carried out last Thursday the 5th, and with a possible 72 hour stoppage on the table, the Single Port Union (Supra) began with the sectoral strikes scheduled for this Monday, due to the announcement of the dismissal of 150 workers of the port company Montecon for the loss of its client MSC Mediterranean at the hands of Cuenca del Plata Terminal (TCP).

This Monday the activities in the extra-port warehouses (from 7 am) and in the port warehouses (from 9 am) will stop for 24 hours. At 10, Supra will meet in an assembly at the National Labor Directorate (Dinatra), prior to a meeting agreed with authorities of the agency and the Ministry of Labor (MTSS) at 1:00 p.m. to try to unblock the conflict, informed the general secretary of Supra, Álvaro Reinaldo, to The Observer.

Reinaldo explained that TCP, made up of 80% by the Belgian company Katoen Natie and 20% by the National Ports Administration (ANP) offered to absorb 30% of laid-off workers within a year. Also in PNA they proposed bringing some workers into their payrollbut the general secretary explained that the deadlines to enter that body are already extensive.

In Supra they do not see with bad eyes that a subsidy for workers who are not absorbed by TCP or the Statebut they think that it is still missing “political will” to reach an agreement.

In order not to reach the general strike of 72 hours, they hope that the 150 layoffs in Montecon, which were arranged for May 20, will not be carried out. If this situation materializes, Supra will decree the strike, although Reinaldo clarified that “if there is no progress” in the negotiations, this can happen before that date.

“The end date is going to be set by the government and the authorities, who are the ones who are there to formalize the negotiations. When they bring concrete proposals that we can accept, the measures would be left there. If we have to wait a little while, we will wait, but if there is nothing concrete, the measures are going to become more acute week by week”said for his part the president of the Montecon workers union, Martín García, to The Observer.

In the MTSS, the measures proposed by Supra were taken with confusion, declared the national director of Employment, Daniel Pérez, to The Observer. The authorities asked the union suspend new measures until this Tuesday, May 10, to project new proposals in the negotiations.

Nevertheless, in Supra they saw the Ministry’s response as “soft” and decided to continue with the mobilization agendaReinaldo said. This Monday the port workers will raise possible “surprise” actions for Tuesdayhe added.

The TCP Agreement

The union blames the agreement between the State and TCP for the concession of the Specialized Container Terminal to the company until 2081, because they understand that “generates a de facto monopoly” and “weakens the role of the ANP.”

The agreement states that the other port companies they will not be able to use the specialized terminal unless TCP cannot cover the demand. Since the agreement became effective, Montecon went from operating 23,000 containers to 11,000.

After the exit of MSC as a client, the port company decided to lay off 150 workers and reduce to 50% the salary of the employees that it maintains on its payroll. “No company can bank 400 workers with insured wages, with salaries, if the job is taken away so maliciously“, criticized Reinaldo in an interview with Telemundo.

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