• The San Juan Daily Star

Definitive resolution of labor conflict urged as uncertainty continues at docks

By John McPhaul

The uncertainty caused by the lack of a long-term solution to the worker-employer conflict between the International Longshoremen’s Association (ILA Local 1740) workers union and the cargo-handling company Luis Ayala Colón Sucrs. Inc., which paralyzed work at the San Juan docks in recent weeks, continues to affect the availability of cargo routes to Puerto Rico, Resident Commissioner Jenniffer González Colón said Wednesday.

“The labor-management conflict at the docks is diminishing our pharmaceutical and manufacturing competitiveness by eliminating the certainty of its distribution and import chain,” the resident commissioner said in a written statement. “The effects of this conflict are yet to be seen. I urge the parties to sit down and resolve this roadblock in good faith and definitively. Puerto Rico’s economy cannot continue to be held hostage, waiting for a definitive solution while interstate and international trade is interrupted. The government must keep its options open in this scenario.”

After a meeting in recent days between the resident commissioner and the Coalition of Maritime Distribution Industries of Puerto Rico, it emerged that the DOLE company, with more than 30 years in Puerto Rico, conditioned the permanence of its services to San Juan on whether an agreement is signed between the parties in conflict at least two weeks before the expiration of the truce that they recently established. DOLE transports cargo between Puerto Rico and the northern European market, with a weekly frequency and transit time of only nine days.

On Aug. 5, Ayala Colón and the ILA local agreed to a 45-day truce during which international cargo operations would not be limited in the port of San Juan.

In the exchange, Johnny Arroyo, director of sales for Oceanic General Agency, said the effect that the suspension will have on maritime transport “will affect the markets for medical equipment, pharmaceutical products in general and the manufacture of medical equipment.”

The Mediterranean Shipping Co. (MSC) also said it would keep the markets of Europe, Asia and South America closed to new routes to Puerto Rico, limiting the arrival of products such as fruits, frozen vegetables, wines, construction materials, furniture and meats, among other consumer products.

“In the middle of the hurricane season, our importers are sitting here with their warehouses empty, which causes a lack of products for the local market, something that has been affected globally since the beginning of the pandemic,” said Elena Vizcarrondo, vice president of Puerto Rico Importing & Stevedoring.

In the meeting in which Rep. José Aponte Hernández and Treasury Secretary Francisco Parés Alicea also participated, the coalition established that it is committed to seeking solutions that benefit both parties, in order to promote economic development for Puerto Rico.

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