600 Factories in La Paz Shut in Protest Over Hostage Taking
LA PAZ, Bolivia (AP) _ Managers of more than 600 factories said today they shut down their operations after workers seized nearly three-dozen firms and took 190 executives hostage.
More factories could close throughout the country if the hostages are not released, warned Carlos Penaranda, a member of the Board of Industries, a management group.
The Confederation of Factory Workers said it took over the factories to demand payment of November and December wages and a Christmas bonus equivalent to a month’s wage.
Labor leader Heriberto Mamani warned of radical action ″because there is desperation among the workers in response to the inhuman attitude of management.″
The Board of Industries said Wednesday night it decided to shut down all small, medium and large factories in La Paz to guarantee the safety of executives.
The conflict between workers and factory executives arose November 13 when the National Labor Board, a government agency, authorized a 200 percent wage increase for factory workers retroactive to August. The Board of Industries refused to accept the decision and asked the Supreme Court to rule on its legality.
The wage increases were granted after a two-week general strike that had virtually paralyzed the country’s productive sector. The walkouts were called after a 77 percent devaluation of the currency and sharp increases in the price of food, gasoline, transportation and utilities.
The Ministry of the Interior said it will send police units into the factories if conflict isn’t resolved. Police stood in front of the factories but there were no reports of violence or police efforts to release the hostages.