Yesterday, Bolivian President, Evo Morales, approved decree 1754 to support factory workers’ rights and grant them new powers to take control of troubled businesses. It allows private companies which are on the verge of bankruptcy, in the process of liquidation, or that have been closed or abandoned, to be turned into ‘social enterprises’ to be owned and managed by the workers themselves.
“Workers will no longer be forced to accept degrading working conditions in response to shareholder´s threats of company closure,” declared Morales, during his speech at the 62nd anniversary celebrations of the Confederation of Bolivian Factory Workers, which took place at the government headquarters in front of thousands of factory workers. “Thanks to this decree, from now on we can say ‘shut down your company, the workers will become the owners’,” declared Morales
The President also stated that shareholders looking to sell their companies would first have to offer to sell to the factory workers who, through an assembly vote, could decide to form a collective company.
The minister for labour, Daniel Santalla, highlighted that this decree aimed to support workers in companies that find themselves spiralling into bankruptcy because of bad administration and lack of innovation. He signalled that many companies, such as Enatex and Traboltex, had already been successfully transformed into collective companies in Bolivia.
However, analyst Iván Arias warned that this decree is just one in a series of changes which are not sustainable in the long term, citing other examples of workers’ cooperatives that were not “economically viable”.
Santalla went on to announce that this decree would be accompanied by a resolution aimed at companies that did not respect workers’ rights. The resolution establishes that exporting companies which do not respect the right to form a union, for example, will lose any preferential government benefits in their work. It also limits the use of surveillance cameras in places of work, “which compromise the dignity of the workers”
In reaction to the announcement, Jaime Ponce, President of the Business Federation in Cochabamaba said that the new measures “gave a bad impression to potential investors and would cast doubt over the investment climate in the country.”
Meanwhile, President of the National Chamber of Industry Mario Yafar, expressed his hope that the measures would be respected by the factory workers and not used in an abusive manner “to put pressure on shareholders and slow down investment in the country.”