Expofrut, the largest producer, packer and exporter of table grapes from San Juan, requested the opening of a crisis preventive procedure to reduce working hours, suspend, or, if necessary, lay off 500 workers that make up its temporary workforce. The company required this measure to be taken due to their inability to harvest and export this season because of the production losses caused by the frosts, said the company and the Undersecretariat of Labour.
"The company requested the initiation of a crisis prevention procedure following the Employment Act 24,013, a kind of safeguard to justify the dismissal, suspension or reduction of work days," said yesterday the head of Labour from San Juan, Roberto Correa Svriz.
The impact on seasonal workers' finances will be strong. Last season, a packer that worked for 60 days made 11,280 pesos (188 pesos a day), but this year Expofrut estimates that, at most, it could only pay 10 wages for each of the 500 workers, that is 1,880 pesos per worker for all of the season.
"However, the action taken must be agreed on by all parties, and we, the comptroller body, will be supervising the compliance with the law's requirements. What must be emphasized is that laying off people is the last resort to be taken into account, " said Correa Svriz.
So far, Expofrut is the only agribusiness company that has started a procedure at the Secretary of Labour because of the losses they had due to the frosts, but the industry can't rule out that other companies will follow their steps, as there will be a small amount of grapes for export, according to the newspaper from San Juan.
It is estimated that the table grapes export sector directly hires 2000-3000 temporary workers each season, equivalent to between 30,000 to 40,000 wages. Some 17% to 25% of the total will be affected by Expofrut's situation. "It's very complicated for the industry, we must find solutions for the employees, let's see what work we can give people, we don't want to abandon the workers," said Busnelli yesterday. He said that it's the first time that the firm, which has operated since 1987 in San Juan, requested this kind of legal solution.