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UPDATE 3-Argentine soy crushers sign deal with oilseed workers, ending strike

(Recasts with end of strike)

BUENOS AIRES, Dec 29 (Reuters) - Argentina’s soy crushing companies signed a contract with the country’s oilseed workers unions late on Tuesday, ending a 20-day strike over wages that had paralyzed exports from the world’s top supplier of soymeal livestock feed.

The deal, following a more than 10-hour negotiation session, includes a two-part 25% increase in salaries from January to August. Increases for the rest of the year are to be determined by the inflation rate, Argentina’s CIARA soy crushing chamber said in a statement.

“An agreement was reached with the oilseed workers’ unions in a meeting held at the Ministry of Labor, to lift the strike that had paralyzed port terminals and the agro-industrial complex,” it said.

Argentina’s oilseed workers’ federation said in a statement that the deal “means the triumph of the strike for a living wage that ensures a dignified life for each worker and their families.”

Chicago Board of Trade soybean futures had been affected by the work stoppage.

Workers went on strike over wages that they say did not fully compensate them for Argentina’s high inflation rate and the risk of working during the COVID-19 pandemic. Argentina is a major corn, wheat and soybean supplier.

The loading of 162 ships has been delayed in Argentine agro-industrial ports, bogging down $1.458 billion in exports due to the work stoppage, according to the Rosario grains exchange.

Soy crushing and other farm industry activities have been put on hold since the workers walked off the job on Dec. 9.

Argentina’s Labor Ministry hosted Tuesday’s bargaining session in an effort to normalize exports as quickly as possible and reactivate much-needed foreign currency inflows.

The strike had affected the operations of international agro-giants such as Cargill Inc, Bunge Ltd and Louis Dreyfus Co, and sent soybean prices skyrocketing to six-year highs on the Chicago exchange.

Reporting by Maximilian Heath; additional reporting by Christopher Walljasper in Chicago; writing by Dave Sherwood; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Leslie Adler

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