Monday, August 13, 2012

Central American Shipping Container Terminal Privatisation Sparks Union and Military Intervention

Thirty Day Cooling Off Period for Mediation
Shipping News Feature

GUATEMALA – As the country basks in the glory of its first ever Olympic medal win following Erick Barrondo’s silver in the twenty kilometre walk comes news that the troubled state has seen the military withdraw from the Port of Puerto Quetzal as a result of an agreement between the government and the port workers’ union STEPQ (Sindicato de Trabajadores de Empresa Portuaria Quetzal). Secret talks between the container shipping terminal and the authorities to privatise the docks out raged the union which had just last month signed up to a new labour contract.

Under the agreement, a 30-day period will allow government-mediated talks to take place between the Port of Quetzal (EPQ) and STEPQ. During that time, EPQ must suspend all actions against the union and the port operators will return to work. The news was welcomed by International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) general secretary David Cockroft who said:

“We welcome this breathing space for constructive talks to take place with STEPQ and hope all sides honour it. We are pleased to see workers being able to get back to work after the alarm over last week’s developments.”

The decision to privatise came after it was announced that container terminal operator TCB was to take over operations on the 7th August when the union had only just agreed a contract with the port on 11th July, they claim without any knowledge of the privatisation talks. Senior STEPQ representatives met Guatemalan President, Gen. Otto Perez Molina, and were told that they had 10 days in which to consider the deal, yet within 72 hours, on the 8th August, some 500 soldiers were sent in and took control of the port.

Photo:- Stan Shebs