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Union Looks to Govt Over Chilean Salmon Crisis

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CHILE - Labor leaders met Tuesday with President Michelle Bachelet to express their growing concerns over the wave of layoffs that continues to affect Chiles once-booming farmed salmon industry.

Patagonia Times says that during a brief meeting in Puerto Montt’s El Tepual Airport, National Confederation of Chilean Salmon Workers (CONATRASAL) head Javier Ugarte and other union leaders told the president that 17,000 industry jobs have been lost since mid 2007, when Infectious Salmon Anemia, or ISA, first appeared in Chilean waters. ISA is a highly contagious virus that can be lethal to fish but does not affect humans.

Those Region X and XI workers, they went on to say, need direct government assistance as they’re finding it next to impossible to find new jobs, reports Patagonia Times.

“The lack of economic alternatives in the southern regions, which are highly dependent on (salmon farming), makes it unlikely the 17,000 workers who’ve been laid off by the salmon industry will find new jobs quickly,” the labor representatives explained in a letter addressed to the president.

Bachelet was in Puerto Montt to attend a meeting with the Regional Employment Committee, which is set to launch a US$150 million labor stimulus plan that looks to create some 11,000 new jobs in Region X.

“The president showed real concern for what’s happening to the industry,” said Ugarte. “She’s informed about what’s happening with the workers.”

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