LA PAZ – Beijing has promised that Chinese companies with contracts in Bolivia will comply with the labor laws of the Andean nation, after several complaints about the mistreatment of Bolivian workers at Chinese companies came to light, an official source said.
The matter was discussed at meetings held in La Paz between Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and the Bolivian Minister of Public Services and Housing Milton Claros.
Bolivian authorities informed the Chinese minister about the complaints late last week, and following to talks, Claros announced to media on Friday that Wang vouched that Chinese companies would now adopt the national norms.
“He (Wang Yi) acknowledges it is a matter of custom, of marked identity. They have a way of working, but now they have come to Bolivia and must adjust to the national laws and comply with the demands of labor regulations,” he stressed.
Claros added that Wang had promised to speak with his country’s firms to reiterate they must fulfill the requirements of Bolivian laws and respect local customs and practices.
In one of the complaint cases, the Bolivian labor minister had initiated legal action to fine Chinese firm Sinohydro, after verifying that it was not fulfilling the required industrial security and labor norms for workers hired to build a road in the southern region of Chuquisaca.
Sinohydro also received a similar complaint in early 2016 by Bolivian laborers building a highway in the central region of Cochabamba.
Claros insisted the state will enforce compliance with work regulations, adding that the companies are under obligation to do so, “despite the fact the works are being carried out using Chinese credit.”
He underlined that Chinese firms “have no special privileges. Everyone must abide by the law... as mentioned by the Chinese foreign minister yesterday (Thursday), Chinese credit does not carry any conditions whatsoever, and they are going to be subject to our labor laws.”
During his tour, Wang pledged a $4.85-billion loan to finance over a dozen projects, including for road infrastructure, power, iron and steel, part of a $10-billion Chinese credit package to Bolivia for various development projects, according to Claros.