By Jorge Otaola
BUENOS AIRES, Dec 25 (Reuters) – Argentina is moving to resolve a ports strike that has bogged down agricultural exports from one of the world’s main bread baskets by calling a meeting next week aimed at jumpstarting wage talks between oilseed workers and export companies.
A labor ministry spokesman told Reuters on Friday that the government will sponsor the negotiation session this Tuesday.
“In principal the meeting will start at 11 a.m. (1400 GMT),” the spokesman said. The wage talks have been tense, with both sides of the dispute accusing the other of intransigence.
Argentina is the top international supplier of soymeal livestock feed used to fatten hogs, cattle and poultry from Europe to Southeast Asia. It is also a major exporter of corn, wheat and raw soybeans.
Employees of soy processing factories in the country’s main agricultural export hub of Rosario, on the Parana River, say they are fighting for wage increases big enough to compensate for high inflation and the elevated health risk associated with working during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The strike has threatened the country’s finances, as the government struggles to get Latin America’s No. 3 economy out of recession. International sales of farm products are the country’s main source of export dollars needed to stabilize the anemic peso currency and help fund coronavirus relief efforts.
Rosario port terminals have not received soybeans since the strike started, causing a delay in the loading of more than 100 cargo ships. The Urgara union of port-side grains inspectors and SOEA oilseed workers organization are also on strike. (Reporting by Jorge Otaola; Writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Sandra Maler)
<em>(c) Copyright Thomson Reuters 2020.</em>
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