The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 78/No. 4      February 3, 2014

(front page)
Port workers in Chile strike for
rights of day laborers, back pay
Reuters/Eliseo Fernández
Dockworkers at 15 ports in Chile joined solidarity strike with workers at Angamos port fighting for day laborers to have same rights. Above, strikers at Valparaíso port Jan. 8.

Thousands of longshore workers went on strike at 15 ports in Chile Jan. 14. The workers walked off the job in solidarity with longshoremen at the Angamos port who went on strike three weeks earlier demanding day laborers work under the same conditions as permanent employees.

“The day laborers don’t have the right to paid vacations, a health care plan, a pension based on years of service or an education bonus,” Enrique Solar, a longshoreman at the Angamos port and spokesperson for the Chile Port Workers Union, said by phone Jan. 18. “We all do the same work. We should get the same benefits.”

Some 95 percent of Chile’s foreign trade runs through its 33 ports, including copper and agriculture shipments. Chile is the second largest copper producer in the world and among the top exporters of table grapes, apples, blueberries and peaches.

One of the struck ports, San Antonio, handles 80 percent of the country’s fruit exports. According to El Diario Financiero, blueberry bosses have been able to ship just half their crops through operating ports. Agribusiness owners are demanding that the government intervene to end the strike.

According to Solar, 400 of the 650 workers at the Angamos port are members of the union, most of them day laborers. The state-owned port is run by Ultraport, a subsidiary of Ultramar, which operates ports throughout South America. Workers went on strike Dec. 23 after voting down Ultraport’s contract offer.

“The day laborers are in a precarious position,” Solar said. “Even if they’ve worked for the company for 10 years they still have to go to the company dispatch window to see if there is work for them the next day.”

The police have been harassing the strikers, Solar said. “There are more than 40 police pressuring us on the picket lines.”

The union’s “attempt to include the day laborers in collective bargaining is outside the framework of existing law,” Ultraport spokesperson Rodrigo Cuadra, told the Militant via email Jan. 20.

Some 7,000 port workers have joined the solidarity strikes since Jan. 14. “We have gone out in solidarity with the workers at Angamos,” regional union spokesperson Pedro Riquelme said by phone from Coronel, Chile. “We want Ultraport to negotiate with the union at Angamos. But we are also raising a demand that we’ve had for a long time to get back pay for the half-hour lunch break from 2005 to 2013.”

Longshore workers won the paid break last year, Riquelme said, but the companies have refused to make the pay retroactive.

Port workers have held marches in support of the strike throughout the country.
Related articles:
Profits before life and limb: two killed in Omaha plant
California hospital nurses protest layoffs, outsourcing
Puerto Rico teachers strike over pension cuts
No recovery for workers, despite UK gov’t claims
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home