San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Caribbean dock workers strike to oppose private concession

Workers at two ports in the Caribbean province of Limón began a strike Tuesday to protest the government concession to Dutch firm APM Terminals to build and manage a terminal port at Moín, union leaders said.

“We are against this monopoly that has been imposed on us,” Rolando Blear, secretary general of the Atlantic Port Authority’s (Japdeva) union, said this week. “Dock workers will lose their jobs. This is not only a union fight, it’s a fight by the people of Limón. Blear said the strike would be indefinite and peaceful, and that all loading and unloading services currently are suspended. “We tried dialogue with the government to avoid confrontation, but it was impossible,” he said.

The strike affects trade and tourism in the city of Limón, 170 miles east of San José, where 80 percent of the country’s exports are shipped.

In August 2011, the Costa Rican government and APM Terminals signed a contract for the construction and operation of a new terminal, valued at nearly $1 billion.

In October, an administrative court rejected preliminary measures requested by workers to block the contract, and workers accuse the government of privatizing port services at the expense of local jobs and benefits. Government officials say the construction and operation of the new terminal will create 2,000 direct jobs and about 8,000 indirect jobs for the province of Limón, considered one of the country’s regions most affected by poverty and crime.

Talks continued this week at Casa Presidencial to seek an agreement to end the strike.

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