VALPARAÍSO –For exactly a month now, dockworkers have been on strikes and today clashes with Carabineros erupted when barricades were put up and tires were put on fire. Cruise- and cargo ships have been forced to seek other terminals as the entire Terminal Pacífico Sur has been shut. Protestors now threat to interrupt the famous New Years evening celebration in Valparaíso.
“If there is no Christmas for the dockworkers, there is no new year in Valpo”, is the latest and probably a very effective threat the workers have issued, as it talks between the union of workers and the Port Company Valparaíso (EPV).
As weeks have passed, the protests have turned more violent. Workers have put up barricades of burnt tires in the center of Valparaíso, causing traffic jams. Carabineros responded this weekend and today by firing tear gas to disperse crowds of stone throwing protestors.
The protestors demand better labor conditions. Their end-of-the-year-bonus, which was taken from them, should be reinstalled and all those participating in the current strike shouldn´t receive repercussions when the workers return to their job.
Especially temporary workers without contracts claim they are being abused. They say they need to handle more work than they can during their shifts, while the amount of shifts they have is decreasing every year.
Since the workers have been on strike, various cruise ships have been forced to go for San Antonio, as the entire strike is centered around the Terminal Pacífico Sur, where cruise ships often board. The financial damage has been estimated on over a billion US dollars already, causing both mayor Jorge Sharp and Finance Minister Llaraín to express their concerns.
But the workers´ latest threat – interrupting the NYE-celebration in Valparaíso – will probably affect the city´s image the most.
Editor-In-Chief Boris van der Spek is the founder of Chile Today.