Strike paralyzes Chilean port operations

Reuters reports that  several Chilean ports have halted operations as workers protest over wages, union representatives told BNamericas.

On Wednesday, southern ports San Vicente, Talcahuano, Coronel and Penco halted activities to show their support for Puerto Angamos workers.

The day before, workers at northern ports Iquique, Antofagasta, Huasco, Caldera and Chañaral also went on strike.

The first strike hit Puerto Angamos in December when regular salary talks collapsed after the union urged the inclusion in negotiations of part-time and non-union workers. Port operator Ultraport has declined to include part-time workers in the talks, and the dispute has now dragged on for 17 days.

However, Ultraport said it was restarting operations at Angamos after nearly 100 workers went back to their tasks, under police protection.

For different reasons, another strike is hitting Chile’s largest port, San Antonio, where workers at eight out of nine berths have halted operations, claiming a retroactive payment for lunch allowances from 2005 to 2013.

A government spokesperson said strikes were affecting nine ports. The exact status of operations at Chilean ports remained unclear, and unions at Angamos and the central San Antonio port did not respond to calls.

However, according to lists compiled by local media and the southern Bio-Bio region port union, 13 ports – Angamos, San Antonio, Iquique, Antofagasta, Mejillones Chanaral, Huasco, Coronel, Schwager, San Vicente, Muelle CAP, Talcahuano and Lirquen – were on strike.

At least 11 ships are waiting to unload and load goods outside San Antonio, in central Chile.

The president of business organization CPC, Andrés Santa Cruz, said the strikes were “very serious” and could affect Chile’s credibility as a safe, stable economy. Northern ports are critical for Chile’s economy as they are the exit door for copper from some of the world’s largest mines. State-owned Codelco, the world’s largest copper producer, acknowledged Angamos’ situation has reduced copper revenue by US$130mn so far.

RCL Agencies will continue to monitor the situation. Please be guided accordingly.