Latin America & Caribbean

Dock workers in Chile end a strike which has damaged the export economy

Containers in Valparaiso port, about 121 km (75 miles) northwest of Santiago, April 5, 2013. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The strike has damaged Chile's fruit and vegetable exports

Dock workers in Chile have agreed to end a crippling strike over pay.

A spokesman for the dock workers, Sergio Vargas, said they would return to work on Sunday after signing an agreement with the port operators.

He said they had settled on a one-off payment for half-hour meal breaks that had not been paid since 2005.

The strike, which began at several ports on 3 January, has cost millions of dollars in damages to Chile's fruit and vegetable export sector.

"The managers (port operators) have signed (the agreement)," Mr Vargas told CNN Chile.

"It was a long fight for dock workers in Chile. It's a great victory. We're going back (to work)."

Early on Saturday the government reached a deal with union leaders, yielding to demands for retroactive pay for the past nine years.

But Mr Vargas had insisted the strike would not end until the port operators also signed the agreement.

He said they had now all agreed on a one-off payment that "will vary and will be paid directly to the workers. It's close to what we wanted."

In a statement issued before Mr Vargas's comments, the port companies said it was in their interest to "avoid further damage to small and medium farmers, haulers, customs officers, importers and exporters, and workers from various sectors - including ports - who have been prevented from working."

In a press release published on its website, Chile's Fruit Growers Federation, Fedefruta, welcomed the agreement.

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