Their are roughly 300 contract workers at the Gualberto Villarroel oil refinery in Cochabamba, who have contracts for between 3 months and 2 years. With the contract workers being paid poverty wages of between 500-800 Bolivianos a month, permanent workers are paid much higher salaries ranging from 7,800-90,000 Bolivianos a month. To fight for higher wages, the contract workers formed their own trade union, the Sindicato Mixto de Trabajadores, but the leaders and most active members were fired, to date this is 32 members.
The sackings first started 8 months ago when the refinery was still owned by the Brazilian state-run transnational, Petrobras. When the refinery was nationalised on May 11th, workers expected a big change from the Evo Morales' MAS government, but nothing happened. The workers have been lobbying the governemnt but t no avail and are now going on the afoementioned hunger strike. They demand
- All fired union leaders and workers must be immediately rehired.
- The national labor laws prohibiting two-tiered working conditions must be respected.
- All temporary contract workers must be signed to permanent contracts.
- The right to unionize must be respected.