At least 26 Ecopetrol employees were injured in clashes with police in the central Colombian city of Barrancabermeja Wednesday, hours after the oil workers began a 24-hour strike over wages.
The president of the oil workers union USO, Rodolfo Vecino, told Caracol Radio, “We are protesting peacefully and the security forces are attacking us.”
According USO, between four and six thousand workers will refuse to work until midnight Thursday, in protest at the state-owned oil company’s refusal to comply with a Supreme Court Order to standardise the salaries of contract workers.
Decree 3164, implemented by the government of Alvaro Uribe in 2003, set wages for contract workers according to their activity. Workers performing tasks specific to the oil industry receive a higher wage than those undertaking work not directly related to production.
A Colombian Supreme Court ruling earlier this year declared this Decree unconstitutional, and required Ecopetrol to bring wages of all contract workers up to a “conventional” level. The oil company is appealing the ruling.
Ecopetrol told newspaper El Espectador that only minor problems occurred at the Barrancabermeja plant and that the national production remained at normal levels.