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Brazilian dockers set to fire third salvo in Legislation war

Brazilian dockers set to fire third salvo in Legislation war
Ports Minister Leonidas Cristino: “We will listen to what the unions have to say but we will not change the core of the legislation.”

Dockers unions have been simmering with resentment over MP 595 since it was launched in early December, 2012, and promised strike action “as soon as Carnival [which ran from February 8th to 17th this year] was over”.

They didn’t wait long to fire the first salvo when 50 dock workers boarded the heavylift vessel Zhen Hua 10 berthed in Santos in a dawn raid and halted the unloading of three ZPMC STS quay cranes and 11 RTGs destined for the new Reais1.2bn (US$610.4m) multi-purpose Embraport terminal.

After almost two days the 50 dock workers (mostly from the OGMO casual labour pool) were escorted of the Chinese vessel but not before extracting promises from government officials and a “one-off” agreement with Embraport that OGMO would “monitor” the Embraport facility despite it being in a private terminal.

Salvo number two was a national port strike on Friday February 22, 2013.

In Brasilia on Tuesday March 5, around 40,000 people marched through the streets to protest against MP 595 and now the third salvo could be fired with a nationwide port strike planned for Friday March 15 if the deadline expires without concessions from the Rousseff government to protect stevedore’s jobs and/or offer reasonable redundancy packages.

A spokesman for Codesp, the port authority for Santos, told CM: “We are expecting a strike here in Santos next Friday. The unions have said they will carry out a 12-hour stoppage to begin with, and they have carried out all threats in recent weeks.”

Luiz Araujo, the commercial director for Tecondi (Santos’s third biggest box terminal) also confirmed to CM that a strike was likely. He said: “We are expecting a strike but I guess it all depends on whether the government makes progress with the negotiations with the four unions involved.”

Stevedores and other categories in Brazil are up in arms because they believe that MP 595 will lead to job losses for casual labour pool workers (OGMO) as all new business will, in their view, continue to gravitate towards the private, greenfield facilities that have recently been built e.g. Portonave, Itapoa and Embraport and that will be built in the future outside “Organised Port” areas if MP 595 goes ahead. These are mostly managed by Companhias Docas (Dock Companies) such as Codesp in Santos, CDRJ in Rio de Janeiro and Itajai Port Authority in Itajai.

However, under the new measures this arrangement is also set to change with the Secretariat of Ports (SEP) becoming responsible for centralised port planning. Ports Minister Leonidas Cristino told Brazilian media: “We will listen to what the unions have to say but we will not change the core of the legislation MP 595.”

Added to these woes, the Santos Brasil Tecon Santos facility – the largest in Latin America – and the TGG grain terminal have also had to deal with an ongoing strike by truck drivers for more than a week. This has caused several delays and some vessels have diverted to Libra Terminais’ T-37 facility and Tecondi terminal within Santos port.