An estimated Uruguayan flagged fifty fishing vessels have been docked in Montevideo for over a month because of a labour conflict over a new work contract with the owners of the vessels and processing plants.
The Uruguayan Fishing Vessels Owners Chamber, Capu, estimates that the conflict, in the middle of the croaker season, has cost the industry 18 million US dollars plus all its influence in associated activities. Processing plants have also begun to close down and send workers to collect unemployment insurance.
Fishermen are demanding a 30% increase in catches’ share which the Uruguayan chamber of Fish exporting industries, Cipu, rejects point blank as “impossible to address” given the loss of competitiveness suffered by the industry.
But even when Capu is willing to discuss with the fishermen’s union, Cipu made up of Fripur, probably Uruguay’s largest fish processor, and Urexport remain adamant, basically because Fripur has its own fishing vessels and “their unions are weak”.
“We’re concerned with the passivity of the Ministry of Labour in forging a negotiation process that could help us advance” according to fishermen’s union leader Jose Franco, since the last labour contract expired April 30.
Franco said that the situation has them “hostages of Fripur’s position”. Fripur employs 2.000 people at the processing plants and at sea and figures as Uruguay’s main exporter of fisheries with added value.
Fishermen are also demanding a review of a May 2009 pension scheme decree by which social security contributions jumped from 7% over a fixed previously agreed income, to 27% of real income. However although dearer under the scheme every two years at sea are considered as three for retirement age.