(New throughout, adds start of strike)
BUENOS AIRES, Oct 13 (Reuters) - Argentina’s Federation of Oilseeds Workers started an open-ended wage strike at 2 p.m. (1700 GMT) on Tuesday, the labor group said, with no sign yet of government intervention that would force members back to work while new contract talks are held.
The labor ministry often orders obligatory negotiations, during which strikes in vital national industries are suspended.
“As of now, there has been no notification of an obligatory return to work,” said a source at the federation. Workers saw such a government order as a distinct possibility, in keeping with normal state procedure.
The federation represents soy crushing workers in some parts of the Rosario grains shipping hub, but not the northern part of Rosario where most crushing operations are concentrated.
Argentina is a major soybean exporter as well as the world’s top supplier of soymeal livestock feed used to fatten hogs, cattle and poultry from Europe to Southeast Asia.
Wage talks with crushing and export companies should have started two months ago, the statement said.
“Oilseed workers, as well as Argentina’s entire working class, have the constitutional right to a living wage,” it said.
With soybean planting just getting underway, October is not a busy month for agricultural shipments from Argentina. But the country needs all the export dollars it can get as it struggles with recession, compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic and heads into debt revamp talks with the International Monetary Fund.
A source with the CIARA chamber of soy crushing companies told Reuters it was in permanent dialogue with its workers.
“In these difficult times for agribusiness, we are committed to working together with unions and workers to try to get out of this situation,” the source said.
“The impact of the measure is significant” in towns such as General Lagos and Villa Gobernador Galvez, the source said, “but not within the main area of Gran Rosario, where another union operates, and which includes major port areas such as Timbues, Puerto General San Martin and San Lorenzo.”
Work stoppages are common in Argentina, where employers are hard-pressed to offer wages that keep up with high inflation. (Reporting by Hernan Nessi and Maximilian Health, writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Bernadette Baum and David Gregorio)
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