Bolivian unions end strike, accept government offer

Double-digit inflation fueling unions' pay demands
||Last Updated: 04/19/2011

LA PAZ (Reuters) — Bolivian trade unions agreed Monday to end an 11-day general strike over wages, accepting the leftist government's slightly improved offer of an 11 per cent pay increase for 2011.

President Evo Morales has been at odds with the COB labor federation since trying to hike fuel prices last year, a belt-tightening measure he was forced to abandon after mass protests in the impoverished Andean nation.

COB leaders called a general strike in protest of the government's 10-per-cent wage increase for public sector employees. Inflation clocked 11.11 per cent in the 12 months through March, according to official data.

The unions originally demanded a 15-percent raise but voted to accept the government's revised offer.

``The decision has been signed by all the groups belonging to the COB ... therefore all strike measures have been lifted,'' COB leader Pedro Montes told reporters.

The strike paralyzed most health and education services in Bolivia but did not disrupt the crucial natural gas and mining sectors that drive the country's small economy.

Morales, a former coca farmer and close ideological ally of Venezuela's socialist President Hugo Chavez, has stepped up state control over industry and basic services. Union leaders support such policies and want them to be expanded.

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