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ITF condemns Costa Rican government, ‘will fight’ port violence

Police brutality during protest against APM Terminals in Costa Rica October 2014

Police brutality during community protest against APM Terminals in Limon, Costa Rica, October 2014.

The International Transport Workers’ Federation has strongly condemned the actions of the Costa Rican government after hundreds of police officers stormed Puerto Limon’s Moin and Limon terminals last Thursday 23rd October, violently attacking workers and arresting 68 men and women who were peacefully striking. The workers were detained, then the port re-opened Friday with strikebreakers, some of them from nearby countries, replacing the union members.

Footage of the aggressive police beatings was shown on Costa Rican TV – a shocking development in a country well known for its peacefulness and democracy.

Paddy Crumlin of the Maritime Union of Australia, the ITF’s president and chair of its Dockers’ Section said: “This is another example of profit coming first, with governments putting effort – and violent effort – into attacking the public sector.”

Crumlin added, “Dockers’ unions worldwide will fight this. They’ll be reminded of the heavy-handed tactics used by the Australian government during the infamous Patrick’s Dispute fifteen years ago.”

The dispute arose over the 33-year, $1 billion expansion deal won by APM to run a new terminal, which has been the subject of a legal battle. Under the microscope has been the huge competitive advantage granted to APM, who negotiated the exclusive right to handle containers, casting a shadow over the future of the state-owned port company Japdeva in the Moin and Limon terminals. Japdeva in turn has an explicit role as regional economic development engine, helping to fund education and health services.

The union has won significant support at home, with other public sector workers offering solidarity, and locals keenly feeling both the potential loss of Japdeva’s much-needed public sector income and understanding the environmental effects. The new facility could compromise the nesting grounds of leatherback turtles and endanger manatees, dolphins and coral reefs.

Regionally, Latin American dockworkers’ unions have rallied and presented petitions to Costa Rican embassies. Now the ITF has stepped up the pressure, writing to port unions globally asking them for support.

“All the union members want is proper observance of the law, security for existing jobs and protection of their community. Instead, the government authorised disproportionate force and hired strikebreakers. Of course the international union community is shocked,” said ITF Regional Secretary Antonio Rodriguez Fritz. “We will fight this and we will win.”

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