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Hoffmann Says Brazil Port Plan Sparks Exaggerated Workers’ Reply

Brazil’s proposal to accelerate the sale of ports to private companies is sparking an “exaggerated” reaction by workers that won’t succeed in changing plans, President Dilma Rouseff’s Chief of Staff said.

The government proposal to sell 159 port terminals to investors by the end of 2014 will cut shipping costs by allowing for more competition, Chief of Staff Gleisi Hoffmann said in an interview today in Brasilia.

Port union leaders in Brazil, the largest exporter of sugar and orange juice, are protesting the plan to cede control over ports, saying it will cause dismissals. After seizing a Chinese ship at Santos yesterday, workers are threatening to stop all work at the same port for six hours on Feb. 22. President Dilma Rousseff has instructed officials to resist union pressure and continue with the program, which seeks to attract 54.2 billion reais ($27.7 billion) in private port investments.

“We respect unions and the right to strike, but at this time, they are exaggerated,” Hoffmann said today. “We will not allow ports with high costs and without competition.”

Government officials and labor representatives will resume talks this Friday to negotiate modifications to the proposal.

The government port auction process will be trimmed to six months from as long as three years as the government tries to boost economic growth by improving the country’s infrastructure, Hoffmann said.

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