On the same day that letters from the MTD and the International Longshoremen’s Association in support of striking Costa Rican dockers were delivered to that nation’s Washington, DC embassy, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) announced a settlement had been reached.
Costa Rica’s SINTRAJAP dockers’ union won a commitment from the country’s government to re-examine the future of the vital ports of Limon and Moin, along with a promise to cease police violence against strikers. In response the union has agreed to place its 15-day strike – which has been supported by trade unions across Costa Rica as well as the ITF and its affiliates – on hold.
According to the ITF, the strike was in protest of a planned 33-year concession deal won by APM to run a new terminal. That deal effectively would give the new operation a monopoly over all containerships – something that is contrary to Costa Rican law. Such a monopoly, which is still being challenged at the country’s supreme court of justice, also would endanger the future of the state-owned JAPDEVA port company. Some 70 percent of its income comes from container handling. Having won the fight to prevent JAPDEVA from being privatized some years ago, SINTRAJAP repeatedly has challenged the legality of the government’s creation of a potentially monopolistic concession.
ITF unions backed SINTRAJAP and condemned the police storming of Puerto Limon’s Moin and Limon terminals on October 23. The MTD joined in the fight with its letter signed by President Michael Sacco calling on the government to end its attacks on the workers and to open a dialogue regarding the concerns. Other ITF affiliates did the same at Costa Rican embassies around the world.
Paddy Crumlin, ITF president and chair of its dockers’ section, stated: “This affair is a long way from over, but there’s been a first victory for legality and reason today. The government will have to return to the negotiating table rather than ignoring the nationwide objections to their plans for Puerto Limon. The negotiation process that now starts must be taken seriously by the government, and a proper, fair and positive agreement reached so as to end this conflict and ensure the viability of JAPDEVA. There are also guarantees of no reprisals against the dockers who have been defending this national resource. We hope that peace comes to the province on Limon and we recognize that the people of Costa Rica have shown themselves willing to defend their port and their future”