BUENOS AIRES: A nearly day-old port strike that snarled grains cargo traffic in Argentina was called off late on Wednesday after unions said they clinched a deal allowing them to be given priority in receiving COVID-19 vaccinations.
The workers held a 48-hour strike last week over lack of access to vaccinations. The work stoppage was renewed early on Wednesday, paralyzing shipments from the world’s No. 3 corn exporter and top supplier of soymeal livestock feed, used to fatten hogs and poultry from Europe to Southeast Asia.
“After several meetings with the health, transportation and labor ministries, we are being included as essential workers in the nation’s vaccination plan. For this reason, the unions involved are lifting the strike,” said a statement issued by the Maritime Machinists union, one of 11 groups that were on strike.
As a group, the 11 unions issued another statement. It said: “All of our members have received a note from the government in which on-board personnel is recognized as having priority in the country’s strategic vaccination plan.”
The unions represent workers key to the docking and undocking of cargo ships. The only labor groups that had been given priority for vaccines before Wednesday’s deal were health workers, police and educators.
So far, 75,588 people have died from the virus in Argentina, according to official data. The total population is about 45 million and there are not enough vaccine doses. Lockdown measures, including a nightly curfew, have meanwhile been strengthened nationwide to combat a second wave of infections.
In neighbouring soy exporter Brazil, the government is set this week to begin vaccinating port workers at Santos, Latin America’s largest port.
The move was a response to pressure from workers who vowed to strike if the immunizations did not occur by May 31 at Santos.