After two weeks of street protests, the Central Obrera Boliviana (Bolivian Workers Union—COB) will begin negotiations with the Bolivian government today to discuss changes to the 2010 Pensions Act after a series of strikes, marches and road blockades in the capital city.
The COB protests began on May 6 as a means to push for a modification of the 2010 Pensions Act that would allow miners with 35 years in the sector to receive a pension of 8,000 bolivianos ($1,137), while all other workers would receive 5,000 bolivianos ($714). The union is also pushing to increase the retirement pension for miners to 100 percent of their average salary, rather than the 70 percent established under the Act. The government believes such a proposal could cause a collapse of the pension system.
The strike increased in intensity last week with marches and road blockades that partially paralyzed the capital. Eventually, the union accepted the terms of a proposal from Vice President Álvaro García Linera, and agreed to suspend the protests for 48 hours—a precondition to start the dialogue.
During a press conference last night, the executive secretary of the COB, Juan Carlos Trujillo, stated that the COB is willing to resume the talks with the government “to resolve the conflict and bring the peace needed by the country and the people.” The talks began at noon, with the participation of Minister of Labor Daniel Santalla, Minister of Government Carlos Romero and Minister of Economy and Public Finance Luis Arce, with COB Executive Secretary Juan Carlos Trujillo representing the workers.
While the talks take place in Cochabamba, thousands of peasants, women and members of Indigenous groups will march today in support of the government of President Evo Morales. He has been very critical of the union’s role by stating that it is only defending the interests of a privileged group, and has called his supporters to “defend democracy” and carry out counter-demonstrations against the protest, which he considers an attempted coup d’état.