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VenEconomy :Another stumbling block

 

The six times postponed trade union elections at Petróleos de Venezuela are clear proof of the government’s determination to dominate the country’s trade union and workers’ movement and put it at the service of its communist project. The true reason behind this determination is but one: in any communist hegemony, worker representation is not necessary. The State is the all-embracing employer.

To achieve its goal, the government has not hesitated to offer the moon, buying the consciences and loyalties of trade unionists in the state-owned companies (both old and new). Nor has it balked at creating its own quasi-trade union groups in private companies to use them to stir up trouble, bending workers’ ears with talk of state takeovers, and then to control their natural trade unions.

But it has been the oil sector’s trade union movement that the government has stuck its fangs into most viciously. From the massive, discriminatory pruning back of the payroll during the time of the oil strike to the electoral uncertainty of today, it has given the workers’ movement within the state-owned oil company neither reprieve nor respite.

The situation for PDVSA’s workers is becoming increasingly unbearable, what with harassment, political pressure, disrespect for workers’ rights, and the flagrant refusal to recognize merit and professionalism, among other abuses.

In addition, the refusal to acknowledge clauses of the collective employment contract since January this year has put the organized workers on full alert, ready to demand what they are legitimately entitled to in terms of back pay, housing plans, medical care, compliance with health and safety regulations in the workplace provided for in the Lopcymat, uniforms, trade union representation and training, and other benefits.

On top of that, PDVSA has caught the workers up in a Catch 22 situation. On the one hand, it refuses to discuss the collective employment contract for the period 2008-2010 until the trade unions elect new officials, but on the other, it is not authorizing the holding of those elections, which have been postponed half a dozen times since August 2008, when they should have been held according to the regulations. And now those elections have been postponed yet again, this time until September 30, with no guarantees that they will be held then. Unfortunately, if the elections do go ahead this time, the workers will have to cope with the brazen opportunism of a last-minute slate imposed and financed by PDVSA’s (redder-than-red) management and confront the vote-making machine of the far from independent National Electoral Council. The good news is: 1) that PDVSA’s workers seem to have learned the lesson of the Caracas Metro’s workers, i.e. that the hegemonic State employer will never act in favor of the workers, no matter how low they bow their heads; and 2) that if PDVSA’s huge sums of money have not been able to crush the oil sector’s trade union movement, what movement will the regime be able to subjugate from now on? Hence the warnings given on July 15 by Energy and Oil Minister-PDVSA President-PSUV Vice-president Rafael Ramírez that PDVSA is not only with Chávez to the ultimate consequences but that he will not discuss the hydrocarbons sector’s collective employment contract with any trade union that is opposed to the President’s ideology, and that any worker who refuses to join a socialist committee will be considered a conspirator.

 

VenEconomy has been a Venezuela's leading specialized publisher on financial, political and economic data since 1982. VenEconomy's Points of View on the issues of the day, as seen by VenEconomy during the last week. Petroleumworld does not necessarily share these views.

Editor's Note: This commentary was originally published by VeneEconomy on 09/03/2009. Petroleumworld reprint this article in the interest of our readers .

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Petroleumworld News 09/04/03

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