SAO PAULO, 11 JULY: Hundreds of dock workers have staged a brief protest in Santos, Brazil’s largest container port, to denounce plans to privatize terminals, as reoprted by officials.
A spokeswoman for the Port of Santos yesterday said 13 ships were affected by the strike by stevedores who complained that Embraport, the largest Brazilian private multi-modal port terminal, is not hiring through the state-run labour management agency OGMO, which places union members in jobs.
The workers fear that bypassing OGMO will make it possible for private companies to recruit non-unionised workers that will accept lower wages.
The protest came on the eve of a nationwide day of strikes and demonstrations called by the country’s five leading labour federations during last month’s mass street protests to demand better public services and an end to endemic corruption.
The demonstrators blocked traffic on the highway leading to the port entrance for several hours, as reported by officials.
The dock workers are complaining that legislation by Congress in May will mean loss of jobs and benefits as private port operators are no longer required to hire through OGMO, port officials said.
Brazilian business owners regularly protest that the burdensome labour law, coupled with increasing payroll taxes, reduces incentives to hire employees and instead drive them to pay their staff under the table.
But in a statement, Embraport insisted that it is fully complying with the new labor law.
The company said it has since early this year been negotiating with various port workers’ unions, reached collective bargaining agreements with three, and hope to reach a consensus with others as soon as possible.
The federal government says the privatisation of the country’s ports is needed to reduce high production costs stemming from the country’s poor infrastructure.
It gave assurances that the alliance with the private sector would not hurt the interests of dock workers.
But unions insist the changes in port activities make working conditions more precarious and will lead to job losses.
With the new law and investments totaling $28 billion, Brazil is seeking to boost its economic competitiveness by removing bureaucratic hurdles and upgrading infrastructure.