A lack of progress in wage negotiations by oilseed workers and grain receivers in Argentina could lead to a nationwide strike, AgriCensus reported on 13 November from a statement by the local crushing and exporters chamber Ciara-CEC.

Salary negotiations involving the crushers’ union FTCIOD, the San Lorenzo Oil Workers Union (SOEA) and the grain receivers union Urgara had stalled due to excessive claims, the group said.

In its statement, the chamber said a nationwide strike against the backdrop of COVID-19 could put the country’s grain export programme at risk.

“The low water levels of the Paraná River added an additional unforeseen factor that caused, for several months, incremental costs of ship loading, delays, strandings and price penalties for Argentine products,” the Ciara-CEC statement added.

Grain receivers had been carrying out sudden local strike actions last week, AgriCensus said, bringing delays to grain terminals operated by ACA, AMD and Louis Dreyfus among others.

Earlier strike action in October had affected crushing activities at a national level with the exception of crushing plants and grain ports located in the San Lorenzo area, Santa Fe province, which belong to a separate union.

In Argentine law, after a mandatory conciliation period, unions could launch strike actions if a labour agreement had not been reached during the process, AgriCensus said in an earlier report on 9 November. In that report, AgriCensus said the latest action was likely to disrupt activity at grain ports.

In October, Urgara had signed an agreement with FTCIOD with the aim of coordinating future strike actions, AgriCensus reported.

Under the terms of the agreement, both unions would coordinate a joint strategy to negotiate salary increases and better working conditions.

At that time, FTCIOD secretary-general Daniel Yofra told AgriCensus the strike action had been launched due to the lack of salary increases.

“We had previously agreed with the companies that we should have a salary revision in August but the companies told us that they will not pay any salary increase now,” he told AgriCensus.

In related news, AgriCensus reported that a group of lorry drivers in Colon, Buenos Aires Province, had blocked the freight railway line of Nuevo Central Argentino (NCA), during a four-day period in a conflict with global agribusiness giant Cargill, which operates a grain facility in the area.

Quoting local press reports, AgriCensus said Cargill had planned to use the rail to transport grain to Rosario. However, lorry drivers from a local freight transport confederation had opposed the move, saying that the transportation of the grain should be carried out by local drivers.

Following negotiations with Cargill, the parties had reached an agreement to transport the grain by local lorry drivers. AgriCensus said a spokesperson from Cargill had not been available when contacted.