September 27, 2007 / 11:13 PM / 11 years ago

Venezuela sees oil workers contract after clashes

CARACAS, Sept 27 (Reuters) - Venezuela said it expected talks over a collective contract with workers of the state oil company to be concluded in two weeks after several people were injured in clashes over the negotiations on Thursday.

The socialist government was working toward “a good agreement for workers and for the state,” the head of state oil company, PDVSA, Rafael Ramirez said in a statement.

He called for an investigation after workers protesting outside regional company offices to demand better conditions clashed with police in violence that left one protester wounded by a gunshot, PDVSA said.

Several other protesters and a policeman were also injured, according to the statement.

In recent days, workers have vowed to step up protests to demand higher pay as well as benefits, including that the company keep a scheme that helps them pay for food. Ramirez pledged to retain that benefit for the company’s 60,000 employees.

Typically, PDVSA has protracted negotiations with workers over their collective contract, which is negotiated every few years.

The company has generally good relations with industry unions, who support President Hugo Chavez’s drive to turn the OPEC nation into a socialist state.

That contrasts with a few years ago, when an oil industry stoppage was the catalyst for widespread strikes aimed at forcing Chavez from office.

The leftist president, who is popular for lavishing oil income on the majority poor, won the standoff and purged PDVSA of his opponents after the strike.

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