President Morales exhorted workers to rethink, because the latest wage increase of 5 percent is superior to what previous governments offered and, moreover, over the four years under his administration, the wages have risen 40 percent. He called on workers’ unions to compare this wage increase with the current inflation rate of 0.26 percent in Bolivia.
The president of Bolivia, Evo Morales, this Saturday asked workers to “be rational and responsible for the country,” not just think about the wages, after the united Bolivian Workers’ Center (COB) called a strike, demanding higher wage increases than the 5 percent increase offered by the government.
Morales said that some sectors disagreed with the wage increase without taking into account that it is a decent increase if compared with the current inflation rate of 0.26 percent in this Andean country, besides being far superior to what previous governments offered.
“While we have started to improve, I think that some compañeros want everything to go to wages and only wages. We have to invest in Bolivia. Only by investing can we create more jobs,” he said.
The head of state made a point of noting that, during the four years of his administration, the wages have increased by over 40 percent and that he personally made decisions to aim at equality of all, lowering his compensation of 40,000 Bolivian pesos (5,600 dollars) to only 15,000 (2,100 dollars), the rule which was also applied to monthly incomes of ministers and parliamentarians.
He stated that his salary as president was reduced by more than 60 percent and that it has not gone up a penny in over four years; moreover, he reminded people that he had eliminated discretionary funds and entertainment expenses.
“The president, ministers, and parliamentarians have lowered their salaries, and the workers have seen their wages go up gradually, an increase of 40 percent. This is the way to try to achieve equality among Bolivians. It can’t be done in one fell swoop. That’s impossible. The Treasury can’t do that,” he emphasized.
He asserted that a higher increase could drive the country into the economic situation experienced by other governments which had to obtain international loans from the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund, even to pay bonuses. “We can’t do that. We have our dignity,” he pointed out.
“That is why I call on our compañeros who are workers to be rational and responsible for the country, not just for wage workers,” he emphasized, assuring that the policy of improving wages will continue gradually.
Morales said that among his projects is to make the Dignity Income, which benefits the elderly, be equivalent to the national minimum wage of about 700 Bolivian pesos (around 100 dollars), though he recognized that, to make that dream come true, it is necessary to earn more foreign exchange, invest, and get the various state enterprises to produce more.
“Therefore, we have to invest and we can’t spend all our money on wages, though of course workers have to fight for their demands and the state has to listen to their demands,” he declared.
Morales made these statements during an inauguration ceremony for a sports complex in the Department of Oruro (in the south) and, later, after his arrival at a meeting in the United Nations where he handed to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon the conclusions of the First World Peoples’ Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth held last April.
The united Bolivian Workers’ Center announced this Wednesday that it will launch an indefinite general strike starting next Monday, marching from the Andean town of Caracollo, 140 kilometers from La Paz, which will be joined by the manufacturing workers, the sector most radically opposed to the government decision to raise the wages by 5 percent for teachers and doctors and 3 percent for the armed forces and the police.
If this protest materializes, it will be the first confrontation between President Morales and the main trade union force of Bolivia, which has been hitherto allied with the government.
The original article “Morales pide a trabajadores racionalidad y responsabilidad para con el país” was published by TeleSur on 8 May 2010. Translation by Yoshie Furuhashi.