Colombia’s main labor unions, students, miners, truckers and farmers announced to lay down work on March 17 to protest the government’s economic policy.
The labor unions are angry with the government over the 7% minimum wage hike that was decreed by President Juan Manuel Santos after, as per usual, employers and labor unions were unable to come to a compromise.
The unions claim that the wage hike that was set just above last year’s inflation rate does not guarantee improved living conditions. Instead, the unions are concerned that a possible hike in sales taxes and further inflation will reduce workers’ spending power.
Colombia’s monthly minimum wage is approximately $200.
The unions will be joined by students, miners, truckers and farmers who all reject the economic policy of the administration of President Juan Manuel Santos and recent events such as the sale of the government’s majority stake in Colombia’s third largest energy company.
The government announced the sale of the energy giant during Christmas recess in spite of 85% of Colombians and the majority of Congress opposing the sale.
The strike is the second this year that seeks to challenge the government’s economic policy.
The first protest was held last month, but was barely attended after major media corporations with family ties to the president implied the announcement was a hoax.
However, especially because of the involvement of students and farmers, the March 17 protest could become big. Both groups were able to mobilize hundreds of thousands in protests held in 2011 and 2013 respectively.
The already unpopular Santos administration has been forced to announce a wide range of unpopular austerity measures after global oil prices dropped.
Riding a commodity wave, Colombia was able to present steady economic growth for more than a decade. However, when oil prices began dropping and dragging down the value of Colombia’s currency, the peso, cracks began appearing in the national economy.
Food prices went up 10% last year and the government is considering to increase the tax burden to compensate the loss of oil revenue.
Other unpopular austerity measures have reduced popular government support to an almost unprecedented low; Santos’ latest approval rate was set at 29% while his disapproval rate was 63%.