Argentina grains strike lifted as lawmakers push forward divisive reforms

Demonstrators protest outside the National Congress in Buenos Aires

By Maximilian Heath

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) -Argentina's oilseed sector workers lifted their two-day strike late on Tuesday after the lower house of Congress approved contentious reforms backed by President Javier Milei but opposed by some unions.

Business at the South American country's top grains ports had been paralyzed by striking union workers, holding up shipments of soy, corn and wheat from one of the world's top farm exporters.

Activity at the shipping hubs in Rosario, the key agricultural export area, was beginning to normalize by Tuesday evening.

"We're lifting the action now," Daniel Succi, secretary general of the SOEA oilseed worker union, told Reuters.

Next week a union meeting will be held "to see how we proceed," he added.

On Monday, oilseed and maritime worker unions kicked off a strike to protest labor reforms backed by Milei, which lower house lawmakers approved alongside a package of fiscal measures on Tuesday.

The two groups later lifted the strikes, though oilseed union workers hinted that another work stoppage could come when the Senate takes up the contentious reforms.

Gustavo Idigoras, head of the grains exporters and processors chamber, confirmed that earlier on Tuesday all port operations had ground to a halt.

Argentina is a major world supplier of processed soybeans. Revenue from grains shipments are a major source of foreign currency needed to pay down debt and finance imports for the cash-strapped government during a prolonged economic slide.

The union federation comprising other maritime and river workers that also protested the reforms lifted its strike midday on Tuesday, said Leonel Cardozo, the Timbues regional delegate of the SOMU Maritime Workers Union.

Milei took power four months ago pledging to slash public spending and stave off hyperinflation, but his reform push has faced stiff resistance from center-left opponents.

The bills on the table include provisions to lower the threshold for salaries subject to income tax, part of a slimmed-down version of an earlier Milei-backed package.

(Reporting by Maximilian Heath; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Alistair Bell and Richard Chang)