Brazil Dock Workers Plan New 24-Hour Strike

Published Mar 7, 2013 12:09 PM by The Maritime Executive

* Negotiations with gov't to continue until March 15

* Port workers against privatization of terminals

* Brazil already suffering long shipping, truck lines

(Reuters) - Brazilian dock workers are planning a 24-hour nationwide strike on March 19 because negotiations with the government over its plan to privatize hundreds of port terminals have yielded little progress, a union leader said on Wednesday.

The workers gave a taste of the damage they could inflict on Feb. 22, when a six-hour strike sent ship lineups soaring in the midst of a record soybean harvest. They agreed to stage no further walkouts during a negotiation period that runs through March 15.

Dock workers fear a proposed overhaul of Brazil's 1993 port regulations will lead to a loss of jobs and benefits because private operators would not have to hire through a public, centralized agency, known as "OGMO."

"They've decided on another 24-hour warning strike in hopes it will help the negotiations, if it doesn't, the next strike would be indefinite," said Paulo Pereira da Silva, president of the umbrella union Forca Sindical.

He told reporters at Brazil's Congress that workers are demanding employment continue through OGMO, adding that a deal could still be reached to avoid the strike.

The Brazilian government says the planned changes for ports are urgent, as it is trying to attract billions of dollars in private investment. Brazil could surpass the United States in both soybean production and corn exports soon, but lacks the infrastructure to ensure smooth delivery.

Delays at Brazilian ports, even without strikes, have led top buyers to pay a premium for scarce U.S. soybeans because they are afraid of delays in Brazil, due to growing lines of trucks hauling grains and sugar.

(Reporting by Maria Carolina Marcello; Writing by Caroline Stauffer; Editing by Bob Burgdorfer)

(c) Reuters 2013