Oil Workers Strike Over Wages in Blow to Argentina's Vaca Muerta

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) — Argentina's largest oil union on Monday began an indefinite strike to press its demand for a wage hike to make up for the loss of purchasing power due to high inflation, a union leader said, a potential blow to activity in the huge Vaca Muerta shale fields.

The strike was called by the Private Oil and Gas Union, which represents some 24,000 workers in the provinces of Río Negro, Neuquén and La Pampa.

The move could impact activity at oil firms operating in the Vaca Muerta shale formation, the world's fourth-largest unconventional oil reserve and the second-largest reserve of shale gas located in Argentina's Patagonian region.

"Inflation always eats up our salaries," Marcelo Rucci, general secretary of the union, said during an assembly with workers. "Salaries are liquefied because they give us what they want as a salary increase, now we are going to ask for what we want."

"This can't be fixed if we don't show them strength, we're going to strike from now on."

As workers walked off the job, the companies, meanwhile, have asked the labor ministry to call for a mandatory conciliation to prevent the conflict from spreading, a source from an oil company who asked not to be identified told Reuters.

"We are trying to keep the plants running, but the drilling is stopped," another industry source said.

Unions in Argentina have long sought to rebuild the purchasing power of workers, which has been hammered by long-running high inflation, currently at above 50% on an annual basis.

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