port of santos brazil

Port of Santos, Brazil, image courtesy Claus Bunks

Workers at Brazil’s Santos port will participate in a six-hour work stoppage on Feb. 22 to protest government plans for shipping terminals in the world’s second- largest emerging market.

The Santos strike will be followed by similar stoppages at other ports nationwide, said Paulo Pereira da Silva, federal deputy and president of the Forca Sindical labor confederation. Workers are planning an open-ended strike starting March 18 if no agreement has been reached with the government, Pereira said.

Port union leaders in Brazil, the largest exporter of sugar and orange juice, are protesting government plans to cede control of as many as 95 terminals to private operators. President Dilma Rousseff has instructed officials to resist union pressure and continue with plans, which aim to attract 54.2 billion reais ($27.5 billion) in private port investments and help stimulate an economy that grew 1 percent last year, according to the central bank.

Changing ownership of the country’s ports will cause both firings and worsening job conditions for workers who stay on, Pereira said.

“We are going to start work stoppages next week,” Pereira said in a telephone interview from Brasilia today. “Negotiations with the government have been bad.”

Port workers will meet from Feb. 19 to Feb. 21 to pick the dates and locations for the smaller work stoppages after Santos, Pereira said. The Santos strike will take place the same day as the next meeting between union leaders and government authorities.

“We have opened up the negotiation table,” a government spokeswoman said by telephone today from Brasilia. “They are going to have internal discussions and then meet with us on Friday.”

The Brazilian government won’t accept changing rules that will hurt the goal of introducing more port competition, Chief of Staff Gleisi Hoffman said in a telephone interview on Feb. 14.

- Matthew Malinowski, Copyright 2013 Bloomberg.

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