A protest against wages paralyzes the lemon harvest in Tucuman
Workers block routes and access to farms and packing plants
The lemon campaign has been hampered in Tucuman, which accounts for 80% of Argentina's total lemon production, due to the wage conflict between workers in the sector and the Argentine Union of Rural Workers and Longshoremen (Uatre).
On Wednesday, a group of workers blocked for the third consecutive day different roads of the province and the access to farms and facilities, preventing the passage of trucks that transport citrus fruits, to show their rejection to the 40.6% salary increase agreed in March between Uatre and the Citrus Association of the Argentine Northwest (Acnoa). The workers argue that the salary was only increased by 25%, as the remaining 15% corresponded to an increase that had been achieved in 2020.
“We demand that the negotiations be reopened. The agreement they signed will starve us. We earn a wage of $1,700, which amounts to $1,350 after discounts. That isn't enough to live," stated Victor Santillan, one of the spokesmen for workers protesting. The workers demand the reopening of the negotiations to set a wage of $2,500.
Meanwhile, Acnoa and Uatre defended the agreement reached in March and denounced that there could be political interests behind the protest. "The parties met at the beginning of the campaign, like they do each year, to agree within a framework of respect and dialogue on the wages for all citrus activities in the province of Tucuman," the union and the employers' chamber stated.
"After extensive meetings held in February and March of 2021, the parties agreed on a salary increase of 40.61% over the previous year, including a guaranteed minimum wage per day worked that is effective as of the 1st. March of this year. The legitimate representative of both parties concluded the negotiations with an agreement signed before the Ministry of Labor of the Nation," they added.
The entities also said that they had presented the corresponding complaints regarding the roadblocks that are paralyzing the lemon harvest and provided authorities all the information required so that they can take the actions they deem necessary.
Finally, Uatre and Acnoa repudiated all the coercive actions that pursue selfish political ends and cause serious economic and social damage to the workers, who will earn less money because they worked fewer days in the middle of the season, the companies, and the entire community.