In response the union has agreed to put its 15 day strike – which has been supported by trade unions right across Costa Rica and by the ITF (International Transport Workers’ Federation) and its affiliates – on hold.
The strike was in protest at a huge planned 33 year concession deal won by APM to run a new terminal. The deal would effectively give the new operation a monopoly over all container ships – something that is contrary to Costa Rican law. Such a monopoly, which is still being challenged at the country’s supreme court of justice, would also endanger the future of the state-owned JAPDEVA port company. Some 70 percent of its income comes from container handling. JAPDEVA is a highly important national asset that is tasked with supporting the regional economy, including by funding education and health services. Having won the fight to prevent JAPDEVA being privatised some years ago, SINTRAJAP has repeatedly challenged the legality of the government’s creation of a new, unconstitutional and potentially monopolistic concession, and the authorisation of the new port to double the container operation fees.
ITF unions have backed SINTRAJAP and condemned the police storming of Puerto Limon's Moin and Limon terminals on 23 October. They have expressed their opposition by sending letters and meeting with Costa Rica Ambassadors in several countries. The police raid helped galvanize public opinion in the country against the government’s plans. There has been civil unrest in the province of Limon where the population have been protesting against the creation of a monopoly and an increase in container fees that would create further inflation in the country. They have also demanded a clear development programme for JAPDEVA, whose income is used for infrastructure and services in what is one of the poorest provinces in the country - despite the fact 80 percent of all the international commerce of the country passes through its port.
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 recognise that the people of Costa Rica have shown themselves willing to defend their port and their future”
For more about the ITF’s support for SINTRAJAP see www.itfglobal.org/en/campaigns-solidarity/campaigns/stop-the-attack-on-costa-ricas-dockers and the photos at https://www.flickr.com/photos/itf/sets/72157648727247609, which you are welcome to use.