At least 2,000 oil workers on contract with Ecopetrol (NYSE: EC) (BVC: ECOPETROL) mounted a day-long strike at La Cifa-Infantas oil field today in the Colombian department of Santander.
The labor shutdown was organized by the Petroleum Industry’s Workers Union (USO) and forced the stoppage of 19 drilling rigs at one of the state-controlled oil company’s largest fields, according to Ecopetrol.
By activating its contingency plan, however, the Bogotá-based company said that there was “no impact on oil production in this region.”
USO said this week that it had presented a proposal to Ecoptrol that included a request for higher salary and improved benefits for some 35,000 direct and contracted workers.
The union, known in Spanish as the Unión Sindical Obrera de la Industria del Petróleo, outlined a forced renegotiation of contracts in 2014 after the plummet in oil prices that “drastically” cut salaries and benefits. And now that there has been a prolonged market rebound from prior-year lows, USO believes a related change is necessary. “Today, the price of oil is around $75 USD per barrel and wages remain frozen,” it said in a statement.
The organization is also calling for greater social investment in communities where exploration has the biggest impact. In addition to investing in beneficial programs, USO is calling on Ecopetrol to generate different types of “projects that allow residents to not depend so much on oil.”
It stressed that it will engage in negotiations for the next few weeks until a supposed expiration date on September 22.
Ecopetrol also denounced the strike, saying that the “actions promoted by the union lack the lacks constitutional and legal support.” The company added that is prepared to take necessary legal measures “to guarantee the continuity of the operation.”