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CEPA President Oscar Fortunato believes economic losses from the Mar del Plata boycott amount to USD 35 million. (Photo: FIS)

Port blockage creates huge losses

  (ARGENTINA, 6/8/2010)
The Union of United Maritime Workers (SOMU) disregarded a court order to stop a boycott of fish exports from the port of Mar del Plata, in Buenos Aires. The union decided to continue with the measure, which it claims is in return for compliance with the collective labour agreements. 
 
"Specifically, we ask the restructuring of basic pay of all workers aboard all fleets. It's that payment of minimum wage is not being provided in our industry, "said general secretary SOMU, Omar Enrique Suarez, reports Pescare.
 
"If the fishermen work, we get paid well; but we don't fish, we have a very low salary. We ask for an increase in the core salary and also for being able to work hours more than the eight set by regulation," he added. 
 
Although a federal judge of Court No. 4 of Mar del Plata forced the union to refrain from any action that would prevent exportation, the entity continues this strike denounced by the Chamber of Fisheries of Argentina (CAIP) and Argentine Fishing Enterprises Council (CEPA).
 
The court order indicates that SOMU should "refrain from any action that directly or indirectly prevent the export of fishery products from the companies belonging to the CAIP, on pain of submitting the paperwork to the Criminal Justice and implementing penalties in event of non-compliance," reports La Nacion. 
 
SOMU guilds fishermen and maintains a dispute for years with virtually all fishing companies located from Patagonia to the city of Buenos Aires.
 
The protest is to keep only overseas fish shipment, so companies can abandon their containers on land.
 
"This is a purely export industry and we are in a choking financial situation. Many companies could not pay Mar del Plata the fortnight last Friday because they cannot market the fish,” said Oscar Fortunato, president of CEPA.
 
The business leader believes that the economic losses already amount to USD 35 million.
 
"The situation is dramatic. We come from a bad harvest of squid (Illex argentinus) and a sharp drop in sales by the crisis of 2009 and the present European crisis. Some companies are planning to fire people because they can not continue without work," said Fortunato.
 
For his part, Suarez insists that "it is a constitutional right of the worker to protest."
 
In addition, he anticipated that he will submit a request to the court that "the fishing firms' balance sheets for the last 10 years be presented to see how workers were paid."
 
"We're not on strike. There are tugs, but not for fishing boats," said the union leader.
 
CAIP represents companies involved in onshore processing of fish and have no fleet, while CEPA brings together companies with fleets and processing plants.
 
 
By Analia Murias
[email protected]
www.fis.com 


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