SAO PAULO, July 10 (Reuters) – Dock workers at Brazil’s key shipping port of Santos, the largest in South America, started a 24-hour strike on Wednesday to protest a port reform recently passed by Congress.
Port authorities said the demonstration had paralyzed the loading of containers, but mechanized bulk cargo shipments such as soybeans and corn had not been affected. Thirteen ships in total were stopped while 22 were being loaded.
The National Stevedores Association in Brasilia said workers at other ports had decided against a July 10 strike and would instead join a range of other industrial unions planning a general strike on July 11.
Dock workers are afraid a drive to privatize port terminals under legislation passed in May will lead to a loss of jobs and benefits because private operators would not have to hire through the centralized agency known as OGMO.
They say Embraport, a new $1.2 billion private container terminal at Santos owned by local infrastructure group Odebrecht Transport, the United Arab Emirates’ DP World and trading company Coimex, is not hiring through OGMO.
The port strike comes on the heels of a three-day truck driver protest that slowed grain deliveries at major ports last week and diverse nationwide demonstrations in June that drew over 1 million protesters at their peak.
Brazil is currently exporting record soy, corn and sugar crops. Stevedores at Santos held a two-day strike in May, holding up 14 ships mostly carrying containers.
Typically, bulk cargo such as grains are less affected by labor stoppages because they require fewer workers. The movement of container goods with perishables such as coffee, bagged sugar and meats are more vulnerable.