Hundreds of trucks are queuing at borders of Chile as customs officers refuse to process import and export goods as part of an industrial action that is affecting the public sector across the South American country.

The potential cost of lost trade to the fresh fruit sector is somewhere in the region of US$300 million, half of the total value of cherries, blueberries, and avocado expected to be exported in November, according to Chile’s National Society of Agriculture.

An article in Asiafruit indicates the initial impact is still minimal. However, if the customs strike is prolonged, it could delay the import of seeds, which have a limited shelf life before they must be planted.

The reasons behind the nationwide action affecting ports and airports across the country are that public-sector workers’ trade union is demanding a 7% raise, among other benefits. The government offered a 3.2 % wage increase and stressed that the country cannot afford more than that, according to news.com.au.

In addition, public workers are protesting against the nation’s privatised pension system, specifically “Administradoras de Fondos de Pensiones” (Pension Fund Administrators). This is Chile’s pension system, created in 1981, which is run by six private pension fund administrators and manages US$178 billion in assets.There were some strikes earlier this year for the same reason. September saw a nationwide action that followed weeks of fruitless negotiations between officials and 15 unions representing government employees.

It has become the norm at this time of the year, when the national budget is being set, for public sector workers to show their muscle in a bid to improve their negotiating position.

“This always creates inconveniences, and in this case, is causing delays to inspections amongst other things, but the fruit that has been harvested is still getting through and we are confident that the situation will return to normal before volumes hit their peak,” said Andres Armstrong of the Chilean Blueberry Committee, according to a story in Asiafruit.

Other strikes in 2016

Brazil

Numerous strikes led by Stevedores Union affected normal operations in most of Brazil’s major ports including Santos, Rio, Paranagua, Salvador, Manaus, Santarem, Santana and Itacotiara throughout this year. The series of strike actions by dockworker unions was resolved last month with a court ruling on 27 October. The decision provides relief to Santos port that has had to close because of protests and severe weather while also dealing with industrial action from customs officers five days a week. The strikes ended when a Sao Paulo regional labour court told Sindestiva, the union behind the work actions, that it must stop its disruption or pay 100,000 Brazilian Reals ($30,900) per day in fines.

Germany

Lufthansa’s 5400 pilots have threatened on 14 November to walk out on strike following the failure of pay talks with the airline’s management negotiators. The action can go ahead at any time but the pilots said they will provide 24 hours’ notice. The dispute centres on claims by pilots that they have not had a pay raise for more than five years and they have submitted a proposal to raise wages by 3.66 percent, which has been reject by Lufthansa management.

South Korea

Thousands of truckers in South Korea went on strike to protest against the government’s plans to deregulate the freight transport market. The Korean Public Service and Transport Workers’ Union (KPTU), who started the indefinite strike on 10 October, claimed the proposed plan will threaten their members’ jobs as a rise in the number of small cargo trucks will result in an oversupply and freight rates will fall, according to Korea Joongang Daily. The action was lifted on 19 October.