San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

51-day port dispute resolved

Following a 13-hour negotiation session last week, the government and the Atlantic Port Authority´s (JAPDEVA) labor union reached an agreement ending a 51-day labor dispute that disrupted cargo handling operations at the Limón-Moín port complex, which handles roughly 80 percent of the country´s maritime cargo.

As of Saturday, the port has been operating 24 hours a day, the daily La Nación reported.

The agreement ends a dispute that resulted in the port not operating between six and 18 hours a day. Union members were demanding overtime pay for hours worked beyond the six-hour shift included in their collective bargaining agreement.

Marco Vargas, inter-institutional coordination minister, said the union workers agreed to switch from working four six-hour shifts to working three eight-hour shifts under the condition that they be paid overtime during the last two hours of the shift.

In addition, the government agreed to create 100 additional positions within JAPDEVA.

Vargas said that now that the crisis has been resolved, the government can focus on advancing its plan to concession the operation and expansion of the port to a private firm. Caldera, the country´s main Pacific shipping port, has been managed by a private firm since late 2006.

Vargas said the government estimates it will be able to issue a tender, organize a bid and select a winner during 2009.

Last week Dutch consulting firm Royal Haskoning presented the government with a master plan for the country´s Caribbean ports, which will serve as the basis for designing the concession tender, the daily La República reported.

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