On April 1 the United Trade Unions of Venezuela gave the following statement on the situation in their country:
The country is in crisis
Our country is at a crossroad. The crisis that overwhelms us in very noticeable expressions, not only in the field of the exercise of freedoms, of civil and political rights – in recent times one sees a deplorable growth of intolerance, militarism, state repression and restrictions, but also in the field of the economic and social rights enshrined in the Constitution and the laws; areas in which the setbacks are felt most by the entire population, and more by those who rely on a wage, a salary or a pension.
The government, more interested to stay in power than to look for a solution to the demands and the national problems, shatter the hopes on a better life, as has been expressed by the popular support for the process of change that was offered to the Venezuelans 15 years ago. The institutions under the Constitution (Supreme Court, Elections, Ombudsman's Office and Comptroller General of the Republic) have been kidnapped by the government, leaving the society – and above all those who work for a living – in absolute helplessness. The daily actions of these institutions in favour of the government clearly show that there is no division of powers, no rule of law and less social justice, as stated in our Constitution.
The working class is suffering
The working class suffers most from the deteriorating conditions of living and working, which can no longer be hidden behind speeches and slogans. The decline in the purchasing power of wages continues; nominal value has nothing to do with the real costs to live, because the "increases"- whether by decree or collective agreement - get lost in a crazy economy, in which money has no support in the domestic production of goods and services.
The economic model stimulates inflation, speculation and corruption, and therefore it impoverishes the majority and it enriches the few, the old and new oligarchies. The only difference with the "paquetazos" of previous governments, is the deceptive and manipulative discourse. Ultimately all measures such as economic adjustments, the rise in prices and the constant devaluations are a greater burden for the people, the workers, all those who live of a salary.
Our national production is destroyed
The government discourages industrialization and agricultural production, leads nationalized companies in a crisis by a low production or by paralyzing, where the rights of working men and women are violated, collective agreements are not discussed and trade union autonomy is not respected ; making imports as the only way to supply the country with basic food products for the population, that makes the economy more dependent and goes against the food sovereignty.
Employment and the right to work increasingly depend of oil revenues which the government manages on an authoritarian and despotic manner. Every day areas of productive investment are weakened or closed: basic industries, automotive industry and auto parts; cement, agro-industry, textile manufacturing, graphic and print production; chemistry laboratories and industry, among others. The use of patronage and blackmail of jobs in the public administration, which was not an invention of the last 15 years, but has been led by this government to unprecedented exponential degrees – and goes to the extreme of ignoring basic labor rights and of affecting of human dignity in wanting to control the personal lives of those who work in state institutions. Today more than ever, the state as employer promotes all kind of illegal contracts that puts workers in a situation of extreme vulnerability in the moment they stand for their rights.
No decent work is created
Although the official unemployment figures are below 10%, the reality shows us that underemployment and informal work has achieved a rate higher than 40%, which means a great loss of productive capacity because it reduces the development of sustainable, permanent jobs covered by social security. This economic and social environment does not offer room to develop the talent and skills of the highly skilled segment of the working class, who have made efforts to advance their professional knowledge. This not only results in measured unemployment, underemployment or migration of professionals to other nations, but transcends to an insurmountable obstacle for Venezuela to break the chains of dependence and promote a sovereign and independent economic development.
Criminalization of labor rights
In this chaotic picture, labor rights have suffered a great defeat, made worse by the anti-trade union policy of the government. To ignore legitimate trade union representation at the moment when issues of labor relations come to a point – whether with respect to a collective agreement, changes in labor law or public policy – means a denial of a true social dialogue and curtails the autonomy of workers to choose the trade union they believe to fit most to their class interests.
To be added to this undemocratic attitude is the criminalization of social protest and labor. Through shameless political party politicization of the system of justice, many colleagues and trade union leaders are arrested, tried and imprisoned only because they promoted actions in defense of labor rights. The right to strike has been turned into an offense, which brings immediate trial and imprisonment, based on standards that are absolutely contrary to the Constitution as provided for in the Organic Law on National Security and Defense or the reform of the Penal Code of 2005 and the Law for the Defense of People Access to Goods and Services of 2010, and other laws that relate trade union action with crime and even terrorism.
In these difficult times of our nation, we do not accept that the government or the top of the political parties, whatever their political beliefs, implement a balanced and fair solution to the political, economic and social crisis, without the presence and active participation of workers, their trade unions and labor organizations, and the popular movement as a whole. We declare ourselves opposed to any proposal that rolls back or violates the democratic rights and freedoms, and we condemn also the growing intolerance and militarism in resolving conflicts.
|In response to an attack on students until they were naked, the students responded with the action "better naked"|
Growing social diseases and social protests
We assume that the wave of protests that shock the country demonstrates the frustration and annoyance of the majority of Venezuelans about the rapid growth of social diseases: insecurity, shortages of basic goods, high cost of living, low wages, lack of stable and well-paid jobs, deterioration in health services, education, roads, among those most felt. The student movement is, on its own way, the expression to disagree with a model that blocks the future.
Facing the protests, the government responded with repression and violence, as they are doing for years against workers and workers: using paramilitary and vigilante groups along with state security forces, arrests, torture, physical and psychological abuse; courts are used to destroy any citizen and to create a climate of fear and intimidation in the style of dictatorships.
For a new development model
In our struggle to uphold the rights of workers, against this or any other government and against the public and private employer, we insist on promoting an economy that directs to the development of our large production capacities, and at the same time to respect the rights associated with decent work.
The United Trade Unions reiterate their rock solid commitment to promote change for the benefit of the working people. This not only requires us to continue to defend the autonomy and freedom of trade unions, the right to collective bargaining and to strike, to decent wages and social security, but also calls us to participate as fighters at the ringside for a more just society, more democratic, more solidarity, in a country where sovereignty and independence are not just slogans but are settled down into an economic and social fortress to promote the material and spiritual progress of all Venezuelans and brotherhood with all people in the world.
Action plan of the united trade unions
Starting today, we present the following objectives of our Action Plan, which should be widely announced, discussed and improved by workers in meetings on their workplace :
1. Overall increase in wages and salaries and establishment of a minimum wage , taken as reference the cost of the basic food basket, as established in the Constitution.
2 . Review of the economic clauses of the collective agreements .
3. Amnesty for all social activists who are imprisoned, those detained because of the protests and to stop the trials against trade union and popular leaders for exercising their rights as mentioned.
4. Respect for the human and labor rights.
5.Withdraw the anti trade union rules of DLOTTT and the laws that make protests into a crime .
6. We require the National Government to install inmediately the Tripartite Dialogue in compliance with what has been approved by the Governing Body of the ILO on March 27.
Rights and constitutional guarantees are not negotiable but defended.
No criminalization of protest
Stop state terrorism - No to torture
Only with a Social Dialogue a more just society is build