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Stevedores end two-day strike at Brazil’s Santos port
Stevedores at Brazil’s key shipping port of Santos returned to work late on Wednesday, ending a two-day walkout at the country’s main ports that had a limited impact on cargo movement.
The strike began unexpectedly at midday on Tuesday at the southeastern ports of Santos, Paranagua and Rio de Janeiro. But by Wednesday afternoon, workers at Santos were the only ones still reported to be striking.
Port workers were protesting reform legislation currently under debate in the Congress. The stevedores want to make sure the proposed reforms, which could allow potential new terminal investors to contract non-union labor, also protects union rights.
“We went back to work at 7 p.m. and everything will be normal”, said Carlos Rodrigues Alves, secretary of the stevedores’ union at the port of Santos.
The bill’s aim is to attract billions of dollars in new investments by allowing private investors to manage some of the country’s ports. Proponents believe that would make ports more efficient and in turn help lower the cost of doing business in Latin America’s biggest economy.
The lower house of Brazil’s Congress was expected to vote on the bill later on Wednesday. If approved, it will go to the Senate.
Brazilian port terminals charge some of the world’s highest prices to move goods. Some of the high cost stems from labor agreements, but red tape, taxes and lack of competition between terminals are also to blame.
President Dilma Rousseff has made the bill a high priority for her push to improve Brazil’s dilapidated infrastructure, which has become a drag on economic growth.
Loading was held up at 14 ships because of the strike at Santos this morning, according to the port’s communication office. The ships affected were mostly carrying containers.
Typically bulk cargoes such as soy and corn 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.
Shipping agent Williams said the strike did not affect the loading of bulk raw sugar at the port, but has slowed the loading of bagged sugar because of the need for stevedores.
Officials at Paranagua port said movement there returned to normal after the strike slowed operations.
Brazil is in the midst of exporting a record soy harvest, while coffee and sugar crops are due to hit its overburdened ports within weeks. (Reuters)
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