Costa Rica’s banana corporation Corbana has called for port workers to end a strike that is paralysing the country’s banana exports.
The stevedores' union, Sintrajap, launched an indefinite walkout on Wednesday, after the Supreme Court found in favour of APM Terminals in a case brought by the union to block the US$1bn expansion of the Moín terminal. Sintrajap argues that the concession, which was first agreed in 2011, threatens public sector jobs.
The strike left three ships stranded and unable to unload cargo. Costa Rica ships more than 2m boxes of bananas a week to the US and Europe, equivalent to around US$21m.
Jorge Sauma, Corbana’s general manager, said the action impacted not only on the banana industry but also the country’s reputation.
“The situation will not be resolved by creating further conflict but through dialogue. The country needs to generate more work and the banana industry offers a lot of opportunities, but these conflicts are damaging the development of the province,” Sauma said.
In addition to disrupting exports, the strike is affecting the country’s 40,000 banana workers, who are losing up to US$800,000 a day in lost wages as they are unable to harvest, Sauma noted, adding that the cost of refrigerating the fruit stranded at the port would also have to be borne by the industry.
On Wednesday police arrested 68 people at the port of Limon on the Atlantic coast after president Luis Guillermo Solis sent in 150 police officers to secure and reopen the docks. Security minister Celso Gamboa said police would stay at the terminals as long as was needed to keep them open.
Costa Rica's government says the expansion plan will quadruple the amount of cargo that the Caribbean port can handle. Costa Rica has some of the worst-rated port infrastructure in the region, according to World Bank data.