May 20, 2016 / 10:01 PM / 2 years ago

Argentine workers at grains port set to strike - unions

BUENOS AIRES, May 20 (Reuters) - Argentine port and oil workers are set to strike over the coming days, unions said on Friday, threatening grains exports and crude production as they seek salary hikes amid rising tensions between the government and unions.

However, a local port chamber said that the protest should have a minor impact on the country’s main grain port area of Rosario.

Port workers have called for a 48-hour strike to start Saturday at 9 a.m. at all the country’s ports, potentially crimping exports in the grains powerhouse.

“We’re going to stop trade,” said Julio Gonzalez Insfran, head of one of the unions calling for the industrial action at the nation’s ports.

However, according to the Chamber of Port and Maritime Activities, the strike will have very little impact on exports from northern Rosario’s districts.

The northern area of Rosario, made up of San Lorenzo, Puerto General San Martin and Timbues districts, accounts for 80 percent of Argentina’s grains exports. In this zone, multinational companies like Bunge Ltd, Cargill and Louis Dreyfus Commodities BV have crushing plants and ports.

“Except for a few specific situations, in general we shouldn’t face problems with our activity during the weekend” in Rosario, said Guillermo Wade, who heads the chamber.

Argentina is the world’s top exporter of soymeal livestock feed, the third-biggest exporter of raw soybeans, the fourth- largest exporter of corn and an important supplier of wheat.

Port workers are seeking a 32 percent wage increase as inflation has eaten into consumer buying power. Argentina’s government is targeting an inflation rate no higher than 25 percent this year. Private economists expect consumer prices will rise 35 percent.

The unions representing oil and gas workers in Argentina’s Rio Negro, Neuquen and La Pampa provinces said that workers will start a 24-hour strike on Monday, hitting the main hydrocarbon producing areas in the country.

Workers in the oil and gas sector are demanding a 40 percent salary increase and say they are protesting President Mauricio Macri’s decision to veto a bill intended to stem job losses.

The strike will hit production at the sprawling Vaca Muerta shale formation in Patagonia, where state-controlled company YPF is operating. (Reporting by Eliana Raszewski and Maximilian Heath; Writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

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