A new popular uprising has started in Peru at the port of Callao, crucial for international trade and the handling of the majority of the country’s seaborne cargo.
After 10 months of unresolved negotiations with transnational company, APM Terminals Peruvian longshore workers from the port of Callao, west of Lima, decided to take to the streets and march.
This latest demonstration follows an earlier strike against the company on May 13, with workers demanding pay rises in relation to the company's profits, full healthcare coverage, and training.
The confrontation adds to the already 175 active conflicts in the country that President Ollanta Humala has to deal with. The issue is important for the administration as APM is the third largest terminal operator in the world and receives 35% of all cargo entering Peru. Last year, APM derived almost US$17 billion of its net profits from operations in Peru alone.
About 650 longshore workers, comprising 95% of the APM port workforce, have joined the strike. One, Ricardo Mora, said port labourers are “exposed to the harshness of the weather, the rain, the high heat, the contamination, the overnight shifts with humidity”.
He said they “need health coverage to deal with the occupational sickness that is afflicting us because of this job”. Other workers face health issues due to their constant contact with lead, chlorine, and raw cement.
Defence secretary of the longshore union, Geraldo Honores, said: “What the company wants is for us to continue producing like we produce at the moment. But they refuse to give us health plans and that is bad for the image of the company.
“It is a transnational with a great deal of money. When they came to Callao, they said that money is the least of our worries and that they would give us all the benefits possible. However, they are not fulfilling their promise.”
In other social conflicts involving confrontations with big businesses in the country, Humala has sided with the companies and not the popular movements. The longshore workers say the president’s reaction to their situation has been the same.
They accuse the government of using the Navy to replace striking workers and perform their duties. Workers also complained that none of the local TV outlets have covered their side of the story. Under such circumstances, the longshoremen are determined to continue the strike indefinitely.
[Reprinted from TeleSUR English.]