SAN SALVADOR, JULY 8 -- Riot police shot at striking social security workers trying to force their way into a government building today, and at least 22 people, including two journalists, were injured, witnesses said.

The shooting occurred at the Social Security Institute, which provides medical care for low-income workers.

Journalists said they counted at least 22 people either wounded by police gunfire or seriously hurt from beatings. Police officers also were injured when strikers beat them with clubs, police officials said.

The National Workers' Union, which backs the strikers, said through a spokesman that 15 strikers suffered bullet wounds and 50 received minor injuries, mainly from riot police truncheons.

A reporter for a private Salvadoran television station said a cameraman and a sound equipment operator were among those who were shot.

Police Lt. Salvador Arias Ramos, head of one of the riot squads on the scene, said one police officer and seven of his men were injured by club blows from the strikers.

"I lost control of the situation, both over the union workers and the policemen," Arias told reporters.

Eladio Cordova, a leader of the 5,000-strong Social Security Workers' Union, said that he knew of eight workers who were wounded by bullets and that four members of the union leadership were injured when "they were beaten with rifle butts."

"I saw three policemen beaten up but {of the policemen} no one was suffering from bullet wounds. The striking workers were not armed," said another journalist who witnessed the riot.

The journalist, who also asked not to be identified, said about 200 police and security agents barred the way into the building when about 120 strikers, who had been demonstrating in the streets, tried to force their way inside.

He and other colleagues said the riot began when policemen cornered one of the strikers and started beating and kicking him. He said a group of fellow workers rushed over to help him.

"Then suddenly shots were heard, and we all hit the ground. Everything stopped, and for a moment many workers started walking forward with their hands raised, and the policemen fired once again," he said.

The Social Security Institute's 5,000 workers went out on strike 38 days ago to demand wage increases and more fringe benefits.