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Longshoremen suspend strike to protect paychecks

The 16-day longshoremen strike in Limón may finally be heading toward its end after Ombudswoman Monserrat Solano announced a deal to suspend the walkout Wednesday evening, according to several news sources. The deal negotiated puts striking workers from the SINTRAJAP union back on the job Thursday morning to avoid sanctions, including docked wages, for participation in the labor action.

SINTRAJAP walked off the job and briefly seized the docks in the Caribbean ports of Moín and Limón starting Oct. 22 in their latest effort to block a concession granted in 2011 to the Dutch company APM Terminals to build a $1 billion container terminal in Moín. Solano agreed to mediate the conflict between the government and the union Tuesday after negotiations broke down on Friday, Oct. 31.

“Costa Rica sleeps tonight with the confidence that we are going down the right path. The path of dialogue. The strike ends, we take up again the search for an agreement,” tweeted Casa Presidencial on Wednesday evening.

Dockworkers who returned to their jobs Thursday would not risk any sanctions from the Atlantic Port Authority, said port president Ann McKinley, according to the daily La Nación. But the agreement struck Wednesday evening did not resolve the strike or the ongoing conflict between the government and the longshoremen over the new terminal. Solano said that the agreement was the first step toward an eventual resolution.

During an interview with Radio Monumental Thursday morning, Labor Minister Victor Morales reiterated that clause 9.1 of the contract, which deals with APM Terminal’s 33-year monopoly on handling containers, was not negotiable.

A court in Limón declared the strike illegal last week, but SINTRAJAP appealed the decision Monday. Casa Presidencial said that it would not be appropriate to take action against striking workers, pending the union’s appeal.

The docks remained open with contract labor as the strike dragged on, but business was anything but usual, with several companies complaining about costly delays.

One group who did not get amnesty in the deal was troublemakers arrested during the two-week walkout. The president’s office and the Public Security Ministry said that those arrested during the strike for vandalism or other crimes would not avoid prosecution.

“Criminal penalties that correspond to those arrested ARE NOT nor will be subject to any negotiation,” tweeted Public Security Minister Celso Gamboa.

The Public Security Ministry released a statement Monday that tires were burned and improvised road blocks were erected in Limón and Moín Sunday evening.

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