SAO PAULO (Dow Jones)–An unusual strike by manual laborers at Brazil’s biggest port, in Santos, partially ended Thursday because of a court order, but it was uncertain whether port operations would fully return to normal over the course of the day.
Stevedores and foremen, responsible for tasks such as loading and unloading ships and stowing cargo, stopped working Tuesday afternoon through Wednesday, a spokesman for the Santos port authority’s labor-management body said. Around 50% of them returned to work for the six-hour shift that began at 7 a.m. local time Thursday, and more were expected to show up at the subsequent shift.
The strike wasn’t formally declared but came in reaction to a requirement by labor authorities that the port workers rest at least 11 hours between shifts. The workers were unhappy with the new rule because they feared it could affect their income, the spokesman said.
The workers showed up Thursday morning in response to a court injunction ordering at least 70% of them to return to work or pay a fine. Sources at Santos said they were hopeful that most of the laborers would return for the afternoon shift.
Depending on the number of ships docked, Santos’s port hires around 600 stevedores or foremen per six-hour shift, out of a pool of 7,000.
Santos-based newspaper A Tribuna reported that around half of the ships moored at the port on Wednesday didn’t operate because of the strike and noted that bulk or liquid cargo was mostly unaffected because loading is carried out mechanically.
Santos is Brazil’s largest port and the main exit point for key exports of grains, sugar, orange juice and coffee, along with industrial goods.
-By Paul Kiernan, Dow Jones Newswires