Sacked bus drivers in Paraguay are staging a desperate bid to win back their jobs by undergoing crucifixion because they are "tired of being exploited."

Eight men and a woman have vowed not to end their painful protest until bus firm bosses cave in.

But the workers risk serious injury to the same hands they hope will soon be steering the vehicles. The health of some of the protesters has worsened say reports.

Union leader Juan Villalba alleged they have been sacked after asking for overtime pay, medical insurance and state pension contributions.

Nails measuring 38cm long were pierced through the palms of each protester and to a plank of wood. To hammer home the message, an empty coffin was laid alongside each person. The wife of one of the men has also joined in by nailing herself to the wood, saying: "We have to defend our rights."

Villalba, told AFP agency: "Our position is clear: we want the eight drivers to be reinstated with all employee benefits. Otherwise the strike is not lifted."

"The drivers are tired of being exploited," he said.

But so far the bus firm is refusing to bow to the protest by giving back jobs to all of the men. Five have been told they can get back behind the wheel, but the remaining three will only get severance payments.

With the protest already 22 days old, it seems the protesters face more pain if they are to carry on their complaint.