November 5, 2009 / 6:09 PM / 11 years ago

Peru port workers start strike over privatization

LIMA, Nov 5 (Reuters) - Port workers in Peru said on Thursday they had started a two-day nationwide strike to protest the government’s privatization push and to pressure it to revoke a recent agreement for the modernization of an important port.

About 14,000 workers were on strike in one of the world’s top minerals exporters, according to the president of the union, who said 4,000 workers had laid down tools at Callao, the nation’s largest port.

“All maritime work is stopped. The strike is happening at all ports, at a national level,” said Augusto Chavez, president of the port workers’ union.

ENAPU, the state-run port company, said it had activated a contingency plan at Callao to avoid a full stoppage.

The country’s mining chamber has not said if it will be hurt by the walkout.

Peru relies heavily on export incomes, particularly from metals, which make up 60 percent of all exports.

According to the Chamber of Commerce, the strike could cause some $300 million worth of lost trade.

The government is encouraging private companies to invest in large-scale projects to improve infrastructure, which is outdated and dangerous in many parts of the country.

Terminales Portuarios Euroandinos, a consortium of Peruvian and Portuguese companies, agreed this year to modernize the country’s second-largest port, Paita.

Workers say the deal was rife with irregularities and want the contract revoked. More generally, they oppose the government’s push to encourage foreign companies to invest in and operate ports. (Reporting by Teresa Cespedes; Writing by Dana Ford; Editing by Walter Bagley)

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