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PDVSA oil unions to attend Guaido labor meeting



By Argus

Petroleumworld 03 05 2019

Venezuela´s oil unions are among the organized labor groups that will meet tomorrow with opposition leader and putative interim president Juan Guaidó, who is seeking broad-based support for a political transition.

Guaidó is expected to present his transition plan and labor proposals , steering clear of suggestions for an oil strike. Many workers at Venezuela´s national oil company PDVSA (PdV) have fled the country along with millions of other Venezuelans in recent years. Others who remain are subject to a lack of pay, dangerous working conditions and pressure to attend pro-government demonstrations.

Tomorrow´s meeting will bring together the rank-and-file oil unions as well as unionized white-collar workers at PdV, a labor official at the company's Caracas headquarters tells Argus .

All non-oil public sector unions are expected to send representatives as well, a senior official with the national public health workers union tells Argus .

Senior oil union leader Ivan Freites, long a fierce Maduro critic and now a senior labor adviser with Guaido's team, will likely be a significant participant in tomorrow's discussions with leaders of the many individual unions that comprise the Venezuelan federation of oil unions (FUTPV).

Freites represents workers at PdV's 940,000 b/d CRP refining complex and also holds the post of national secretary of technicians and professionals on the FUTPV's board of directors.

"Freites is a very important bridge between white collar, refinery and oil field workers," a union leader at the 190,000 b/d Puerto La Cruz refinery in Anzoátegui said by telephone.

Guaidó emerged before an exuberant crowd at a rally in Caracas today after arriving at Venezuela´s Simon Bolivar international airport in Maiquetía outside the capital, following a week-long South American tour aimed at boosting his credentials among the more than 50 governments that recognize his authority. His return peaceful so far appears to have restored his political standing following a failed effort to bring in humanitarian aid from neighboring Colombia and Brazil on 23 February. In his speech today, he seemed to change the subject from aid to public-sector unions, which he said are "hostage" to the Maduro government.

Since swearing a public oath as interim president on 23 January, Guaidó has been campaigning to compel the peaceful resignation of sitting president Nicolas Maduro, establish a transition government and convene free and fair elections. Maduro has refused to step down amid persistent repression by military, police and paramilitary forces loyal to him.

Guaidó has pledged to restore real wages and reinstate differential salary grade scales, collective bargaining rights and social benefits including health insurance and food support that the Maduro government has steadily eroded since he was elected in April 2013.

At the airport today, Guaidó´s much-anticipated arrival was accompanied by US, EU and Latin American diplomats who were there to witness his safe return.

Maduro and senior government officials have threatened to arrest Guaidó. Many of Venezuela´s opposition leaders are in prison or in exile.

At today´s rally, Guaidó called for his supporters to remain on the streets, and summoned more demonstrations for 9 March.



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