For the past 12 months, commerce workers affiliated to SIEMCOIT in Paraguay, along with other workers including ceramicists, have carried out a number of actions in the border city of Encarnación, to protest against a broken promise by Yacyretá Binational Entity (EBY) to support workers who lost jobs during the pandemic.
EBY is a joint venture between the governments of Paraguay and Argentina that manages the Yacyretá hydroelectric power station, and it plays a significant social role due to the high levels of poverty in the area. When borders were closed during the pandemic, it had severe consequences for workers at the border, who lost work and business. In an agreement signed on 12 May 2022, EBY promised to set up a Labour Rehabilitation Programme for workers who lost their jobs, as well as implement a housing programme and infrastructure support for workers in trade.
These workers worked in independent small shops, mostly selling electronic devices, clothing, toys and different items at wholesale and retail levels.
“We need a response in order to find an immediate and just solution,” said Irene Fernandez, president of UNI Global Union affiliate, SIEMCOIT. “Now we are suffering on the streets without the authorities caring about us. We want a solution and social peace in Paraguay. We need urgent attention, dialogue and a working group, and achieve what is written in the agreement.”
Almost a year after EBY signed the agreement, there has been no progress and these workers and their families, who have taken to the streets to demand compliance, and a right to work and dignity, have been completely abandoned. The union also urges the new electoral candidates in the run-up to the national elections in April to address this situation as a matter of urgency.
“We call on the political candidates to be socially sensitive to our demands, to commit themselves and fulfil what has been agreed, so that words and commitments do not remain in the air. We need justice for the most vulnerable,” concluded Fernandez.