BUENOS AIRES, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Leaders of Argentina’s grain workers’ unions said on Monday they expect to avoid the labor strikes that routinely paralyze the grains hub of Rosario, optimistic on upcoming wage talks under the mediation of the newly elected government.
Export giants like Cargill, Bunge and Louis Dreyfus have seen their shipments stalled in recent years as port and crushing plant workers demand salary hikes in line with inflation, currently estimated at about 30 percent.
“For now, it looks like it is going to be a calm year,” said Herme Juarez, president of the Port Workers Cooperative, which represents thousands of stevedores.
“A strike would be bad for the country,” he added. “What we have to do is go along with the government that just arrived.”
President Mauricio Macri was elected in November on an open markets platform much at odds with the polices of previous leader Cristina Fernandez, who had long feuded with exporters and the farm sector.
Macri has ditched Fernandez’s wheat and corn export curbs, which she used to try to keep domestic food prices down. He also scrapped or reduced the taxes that Fernandez slapped on farm exports.
“The soy processing companies are working closely with the government, and are among the companies that are most favored by all the measures that are being taken,” said crushing workers’ union boss Pablo Reguera. “So we understand that, within reason, there shouldn’t be a problem getting to a wage deal.”
Argentina is the world’s top exporter of soymeal livestock feed, the No. 3 supplier of raw beans and No. 4 corn exporter.
Macri got off to a good start with the export sector by lifting trade and currency controls, which in turn allowed the peso to weaken by about 36 percent.
While fueling already high inflation, the devaluation was welcomed by businesses that pay costs in the local currency while getting paid in U.S. dollars.
“I don’t think we are going to have any upsets on the way to a wage deal. There are no conflict situations,” said Alfredo Palacio, head of the national grains warehouse workers’ union.
Reporting by Maximiliano Rizzi; Editing by Dan Grebler