UPDATE 2-Argentina oilseed crushers union SOEA holds 24-hour strike, union rep says

(Adds comment from head of chamber representing companies)

By Maximilian Heath

BUENOS AIRES, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Argentina's major oilseed crushers union began a 24-hour strike on Friday after negotiations broke down with processing and exporting firms over coronavirus pandemic bonus payments, a union representative said.

The strike began at noon despite the government stepping in to order both sides back to the negotiating table. The union carried out a similar strike last week after a proposed COVID-19 bonus payment fell short of expectations.

"A 24-hour strike begins at 12 noon (1500 GMT)," said Daniel Succi, from the Union of Oilseed Workers and Employees of the San Lorenzo department, where the largest Argentine agro-industrial center is located.

The workers are seeking a monthly bonus payment for the period since April for working during the pandemic when the Argentine government ordered a strict quarantine and allowed work only of essential activities.

Succi said that the companies wanted to combine the payment of a pandemic bonus with an end-of-year bonus, an offer that the union had rejected.

He added that the strike involved some 4,000 workers and came after negotiations between the parties failed following six meetings mediated by officials from the labor ministry.

Succi indicated that the ministry would call for a new mandatory conciliation - a measure which forces the parties to halt any action and sit down to negotiate - on Friday afternoon.

Gustavo Idígoras, head of the CIARA-CEC chambers of grains processors and exporters, said that the government conciliation had indeed been issued, but that workers "were not complying with the mandatory conciliation, causing serious problems."

SOEA represents workers from grain processors in the towns of San Lorenzo, Puerto General San Martin and Timbues, which account for some 80% of the country's agro-industrial exports. Argentina is the world's top supplier of soybean meal and oil.

Last week, the group carried out another strike to claim the bonus, paralyzing milling activity in almost the entire agro-industrial center of the area. (Reporting by Maximilian Heath; writing by Cassandra Garrison and Adam Jourdan Editing by Alistair Bell and Jonathan Oatis)

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