San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Moín Port project

Solís administration, striking dockworkers at loggerheads over port concession

Both President Luis Guillermo Solís’ administration and the Atlantic Port Authority’s union, SINTRAJAP, dug in their heels after negotiations at Casa Presidencial ended in an impasse on Thursday.

Labor Minister Victor Morales released a statement following the meeting asking the stevedores union to lift the strike immediately, leaving no room to renegotiate a clause that grants Dutch company APM Terminals the exclusive rights to handling container traffic at the $1 billion “mega-port” for 33 years. Morales met with SINTRAJAP leaders, Broad Front Party lawmaker Gerardo Vargas, and Legislative Assembly President Henry Mora of the ruling Citizen Action Party.

“The president has been very clear on this matter. Clause 9.1 of the contract with APM Terminals should be respected. That is the criteria that this administration stands by,” Morales said in a statement.

Despite the line in the sand over the terms of the concession, Morales said the government remained open to dialogue with SINTRAJAP.

President Solís released a statement Thursday evening reiterating that Costa Rica would respect the terms of the contract as a “country that long ago opted for the rule of law and peace.” Solís said that his administration would commit financial resources and training for workers who may lose their jobs at the port.

On Wednesday morning, SINTRAJAP paralyzed the docks in Limón and Moín only to be ejected from them that evening by police with the support of Casa Presidencial. Sixty-eight people were arrested in the operation.

On Thursday morning, the docks reopened with foreign contracted labor under police guard. Public Security Minister Celso Gamboa said that police officers would remain at the port as long as needed to ensure their normal operation. The docks in Limón handle some 80 percent of Costa Rica’s international trade.

SINTRAJAP leader Ronaldo Blears said the union would take action against Gamboa for the police operation and claimed that other unions would join the stevedores in solidarity. Blears added that nothing the government said would intimidate them and that the strike would continue indefinitely, according to Luis Miguel Herrera, a reporter for the daily Nación in Limón.

On Thursday, representatives from the U.S. Embassy in San José traveled to Limón to meet with both sides of the dispute, according to embassy spokeswoman Alexis Sullivan.

Meanwhile, the National Technical Secretariat of the Environment Ministry (SETENA) announced that it would push back a report of its findings on the environmental viability of the “mega-port” to March 2015, according to La Nación. Documents presented by the Costa Rican Federation for Environmental Conservation alleged that there were irregularities in the project’s environmental impact study that favored the project. SETENA’s approval is the last remaining legal hurdle the port expansion project must overcome after winning several appeals by SINTRAJAP to block the contract’s original language.

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Oops! Appears that nothing has changed.
The Norteamericanos come here and employee as many local people as possible. Yet the politicians do not like these Americanos.
The Chinese build a stadium with 90& Chinese labor, but the Politicians love China.
Now the Dutch are going to displace hundreds of Ticos so I suppose the Politicians will not love the Dutch.
Why on earth is Costa Rica continuing to reach contract agreements which displace local labor?

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Mark Kahle

Sorry, Seth. You obviously have not been following this for the past years. It is the Union that is protesting this. They have an existing monopoly on all sea freight in and out of Costa Rica and don’t want to see any competition from anyone.

APM has them running scared because they will off and on load ships much much faster and their pricing is well below that of the present monopoly.

They have called several illegal strikes in the past, were and are unwilling to negotiate on any point that allows for competition and or choice for the consumer as to who to use to ship their goods.

They are constantly defaulting on their agreement with the Government with help to the local communities getting to be less every year while their income increases.

At one point they had almost 50% of their workers on disability (it paid more than working) and were refusing to see Doctors as designated by the CCSS to confirm said disabilities.

The Tico Times reporting on this issue has been extensive and from every angle imaginable. The job they have done on this subject is exemplary.

Every one is sick of the antics of this organization that sees shutting down 90% of the nations income as their God given right.

Solis must follow the law. He is sworn to do so. That you would think otherwise is indeed insulting. And yes, he ran on ending as much corruption as possible…what happens on those docks and with that union more than qualifies them to be on the Governments “BASTA” list.

This is one of few areas where the past administration and this one are in agreement. Please do try to “catch up”.

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Seth Daniels

You are doing a poor job at explaining why they are striking. And you are also not explaining how the liberal Solis is breaking a union, using police power against his own citizens while bringing in scab workers. This does not sound like the man that was running for office. Does he represent the Ticos or some foreign power? The foreign company must realize they are dealing with uncertainty of a Third World nation. They factor those risks into their negotiations and contracts. I think you need to actually interview workers in that town — let’s hear from the Ticos direct. Thanks.

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