© Radio ATE FM Argentina
The start of Argentina’s lemon season has been hit by a series of strikes in the country’s main production region, Tucuman. Self-organising workers blocked roads in different points of the province and prevented the passage of trucks transporting citrus, according to La Nación. The blockades also take place at the accesses to farms and packing plants.
The protesters reportedly rejected the 40.6% salary increase agreed last March between the Argentine Union of Rural Workers and Stevedores (Uatre) and the Citrus Association of Northwest Argentina (Acnao), within the framework of the labour negotiations. The sector claims that the increase is actually 25%, while the remaining 15% corresponds to an increase that had been reached in 2020.
Víctor Santillán, one of the spokesmen of the self-convened harvesters, said: "We demand that they reopen the bargaining agreements because what they signed is a starvation agreement. They say that 40% is an achievement, but it is 25% with 15% from last year. We earn a wage of 1700 pesos (US$18), which with taxes is 1350 pesos (US$14). It is not enough for anything."
The workers are demanding the reopening of the labour unions to set a daily wage of 2,500 pesos (US$27).
Meanwhile, Acnoa and Uatre defended the agreement reached in March and alleged that there were political interests behind the protest. The entities reportedly warned that "minority sectors outside the activity with political interests are carrying out roadblocks and blocking access to farms and production facilities, thus paralysing the functioning and operation of the companies and workers at the beginning of the citrus season".
The development comes just after the European Union announced that it had revoked a ban on Argentina citrus imports implemented in August due to a high number of citrus black spot interceptions.