Puerto Belgrano blocked for another week

Marzo de 2006


Leaders of the pickets that are blocking Puerto Belgrano, Argentina’s main naval compound, in demand for higher salaries and improved working conditions estimate that an agreement can be reached sometime next week, reports La Nueva Provincia from Bahía Blanca.

Negotiations are currently taking place in Buenos Aires between the Defence Ministry and representatives from the Government Workers Union, whose Puerto Belgrano branch decided the drastic industrial action which has virtually isolated the naval base and seriously limited all activities, including in the dry dock where the Royal Navy’s Ice Patrol HMS Endurance is stuck.

Juan Antonio Sielas, head of the local union branch of non military Defence workers said that “negotiations are advancing”, but warned that a final agreement won’t be signed until next week.

“Pickets in all seven accesses to the base will continue because we don’t trust officials, but I estimate we’ll be signing the agreement in Buenos Aires sometime next week”, said Mr. Sielas.

Since the pickets are particularly emphatic with military personnel, the Argentine navy has began transporting personnel by sea bringing relief to the situation in the compound where supplies in the small village were running short.

Only women and school children can enter and leave the naval base, plus emergencies. Over the weekend an agreement was reached to re-supply the local supermarket, pharmacy and other small businesses and services.

“We know it’s hard on local residents, and we want to disrupt the least possible, but we have been relegated for years in our demands and this is the time”, added Mr. Sielas.

The Punta Alta Council, the town where most civilian personnel from the base lives, sent a letter to Defence Minister Nilda Garré requesting a quick solution to the salary conflict of the non military personnel of the Navy which “impacts in the whole Coronel Rosales county”.

“The lack of definition and delay regarding the adjustment and recovery of the Navy’s civilian personnel meager salaries impacts not only on those there employed, a significant number for our community, but also in local business, trade and production”, reads the letter.

“All accesses to the Naval Base have been blocked with the purpose that our neighbour workers can definitively be listened to. Therefore with no delay, it’s essential that tangible decisions regarding salary policies for the civilian personnel of the Armed Forces be reached”.