By Eliana Raszewski
BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Protesting health workers who erected roadblocks over the last three weeks at the sprawling Vaca Muerta shale oil deposit in Argentina said on Wednesday that they shifted the protests to other parts of Patagonia.
The roadblocks had affected Vaca Muerta oil and natural gas production and left the area without energy. Workers including doctors, nurses, orderlies and other hospital staff are seeking greater compensation for working high-risk jobs during the COVID-19 pandemic as cases spike in Argentina.
They have rejected offers of increased compensation, calling them insufficient, but agreed to move the protests to other parts of Neuquen Province, and away from the politically and economically sensitive Vaca Muerta area.
"We are going to move to different parts of the province. We will continue evaluating what other measures to take to ensure that the government understands our concerns, considering that we are getting hit by a second wave of COVID-19 cases," Marco Campos, a spokesman for the health care workers, told Reuters.
The roadblocks caused serious production slowdowns at Vaca Muerta, one of the largest shale reserves in the world.
The union's decision to move the protests "should allow traffic to begin to normalize little by little," said a local oil industry source, who asked not to be named.
Vaca Muerta is key to Argentina's goal of closing its energy deficit and eventually becoming a net oil and gas exporter.
(Reporting by Eliana Raszewski, writing by Hugh Bronstein, editing by Richard Pullin)