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ITF; Argentinean union strikes

Argentinean union strikes - tug services halted

Argentinean seafarers and fishers’ trade unions are backing fellow union SOMU’s demand for recognition by Argentinean freezer fishing companies. As of noon on Wednesday this week all SOMU-crewed tug services to Maersk and Hamburg Sud, which transport containers of fish for export from Mar del Plata, have been indefinitely suspended.

The other unions - Sindicato de Electricistas y Electronicistas Navales (SEEN); Centro de Jefes y Oficiales Maquinistas Navales (CJOMN); and the Centro de Patrones y Oficiales Fluviales de Pesca y Cabotaje Marítimo(CPOFPCM) - have declared that they will join the strike if any attempt is made to replace SMOU members on the vessels.

The move follows years of fruitless negotiations between the freezer fishing companies and the ITF affiliated SOMU (Sindicato de Obreros Marítimos Unidos), which has been requesting the relaunch of recognition and a bargaining process stripped by the military junta which ruled Argentina during the Dirty War of 1976 to 1983.

In 1976, in violation of ILO Conventions 87 and 98 on Freedom of Association, the military government declared the SMOU’s collective bargaining agreements abolished, despite Argentinean and international trade union protests. Even after the fall of the Junta, fishery companies have been able to get away with denying workers their rights by citing Decree 1264, which suspends collective bargaining in relation to maritime transportation, inland navigation, passenger carrying, fishing and port work. The national trade unions state that this is also a violation of ILO Convention 154, ratified by Argentina in 1993.

SOMU states that the action will continue nationwide until freedom of association is respected and proper collective bargaining is in place. The annual catch landed in Mar del Plata amounts to 500,000 tons.

Omar Suarez, General Secretary of the SOMU, commented: "For years we’ve made complaints about the non-fulfilment of the national and international regulations and labour conventions for seafarers, fisheries and dockers. Likewise, we have reported that many fisheries are run under conditions of near enslavement; however we have not had any response from employers or the government of Argentina. This suspension of towing services will continue until the union is recognised and a negotiation procedure is in place to protect seafarers, fishers and dockers. We are not against the idea of companies making profits, but we are convinced that workers deserve a fair share."

ENDS

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