La Paz streets filling with trash amid sanitation workers’ pay strike

La Paz, Apr 26 (EFE).- The streets of La Paz have been filling with trash over the past four days amid a strike to obtain back pay by sanitation workers.

Dozens of workers for La Paz Limpia, which is tasked with collecting trash in the Bolivian capital, on Monday staged a march to the City Hall to demand their salaries for the past five months.

The workers protested wearing their green uniforms, stationing a garbage truck at the door of the City Hall and displaying signs demanding that Mayor Luis Revilla pay them their salaries, which they have not been receiving since December.

The dispute secretary for La Paz Limpia, Richard Bueno, told EFE that the city’s debt to the firm’s workers has risen to some $10 million, which is equivalent to the salaries for five months of at least 1,000 sanitation workers for collecting the garbage, taking it to the dump and sweeping the streets.

Bueno said that the majority of the workers owe money for their bills because they haven’t received their pay and that the situation is unsustainable, and thus they determined last week that they would stop collecting the trash until they are paid their salaries.

Meanwhile, the City Hall has proposed paying the workers half of what it owes them if they will continue with their duties, but the garbagemen rejected that offer because they want to receive the full amount of what they are owed.

This is why on Monday they staged their protest and also blocked the route to the Alpacoma dump and the Sak’a Churu sanitary landfill, Bueno said.

The City Hall, meanwhile, moved to get the courts to prohibit the blockade of the sanitary landfill, contending that the workers’ action is endangering public health.

The city’s executive secretary, Marcelo Arroyo, told the media that La Paz has a “permanent” contract with La Paz Limpia, but that the workers are being “intransigent” by demanding 100 percent of their back pay since it would be “impossible” for the city to produce those funds, and thus he said that city authorities presume that “other reasons” are behind their mobilization.

Arroyo said that city officials had agreed to meet with representatives of La Paz Limpia on Monday afternoon to examine the possibility of reaching an agreement whereby they would return to work.

Revilla is scheduled to leave office on May 3, to be replaced by Mayor-elect Ivan Arias.

While the two sides work to arrive at an agreement, the streets of the capital are filling with bags of trash, bottles and boxes, all of which are piling up beside dumpsters and trash bins that are already overflowing.

On some of the dumpsters, local residents have posted signs saying that it is “prohibited to discard trash” so that it won’t continue to pile up and create a stench.

“We have to deal with the bad smells. It’s a situation that can affect our health even though we’re wearing masks,” Arminda Calle, a resident of the Sopocachi neighborhood, told EFE.

Dogs and pigeons are getting into the trash bags, however, and spreading the contents all over the place, while passersby are having to tiptoe through certain areas to avoid stepping on all the garbage strewn about.

Bueno asked the public to understand the garbage workers’ situation and to know that they are aware of the situation and are ready to collect all the trash if they can arrive at a solution to their pay request with city officials.


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