On Saturday 26 October in the Municipal Theatre of Valencia, Carabobo state, the founding congress of the new Federation of Automobile and Related Industry Workers was held. Over seven hundred delegates were present at the congress, who decided upon the new union’s organising structure and chose representatives from workers of more than twenty five auto industry companies. To find out more about the process of forming the federation, the objectives that it pursues and the challenges its workers face in the political and labour fields, left-wing socialist organisation Marea Socialista (Socialist Tide) interviewed Christian Pereira, the Secretary General of the union of workers at Chrysler Venezuela and part of the Promoting Team of the new federation.
Marea Socialista: How has the process of forming this new union federation been?
Christian Pereira: With the discussion about the proposed Law on the Purchase and Sale of Vehicles that is being conducted in the National Assembly, we workers were presented with a valuable opportunity to meet up and share our impressions of the [automobile] sector’s problems. Although there was little will to include us in the debate, we promoted a series of meetings between union teams and workers from different automobile assembly and related companies, such as Ford, General Motors, Toyota, Iveco, Encava, Mitsubischi, Firestone, Pirelli, Good Year, Esposito, Enveta, Filtros Wix, Road Track, Tuboauto, GPI, Macusa, Mamusa, Gabriel, Clover, Aerocav, Tessco, Ocimetal, Super Autos, Mavidel, Metalsa and our Chrysler team, among others. We were insistent with the [National Assembly’s] legislative commission and all relevant bodies that this discussion couldn’t be held without us. In the heat of the debate we coincided that a new organising tool was needed that could give us the strength to put forth our demands, our proposals, and to put ourselves at the vanguard of a new productive model for the country.
What principals and aims does this new union organisation propose?
Our main aspiration is to construct a tool at the service of the workers and the people. We want a union federation that is firm in labour struggles and that in practice constructs a new trade union model to overcome the corrupt and bureaucratic inheritance of Fourth Republic unionism [in reference to the two-party political period in Venezuela 1958 - 1998]. We want to construct a union model that is autonomous from the bosses and the state, so that it can really respond to workers’ interests. But above all we want this union federation to fulfil the fundamental role that we workers have in the transition to socialism: to demonstrate that only in our hands, in the hands of the Venezuelan people, is it possible to develop a national productive apparatus, and that for this the workers need more power.
What is the current situation in the auto-assembly sector?
Frankly, the automobile sector is in a crisis. The fall in production has deepened dependence on the importation of finished cars. The threat of factory and auto-assembly closure is ever greater, affecting labour stability. However these threats [by auto-assembly companies] are made in order to pressure and demand more concessions from the government, which as we have seen has ceded more than it should have. On the labour front our situation in terms of workers’ health is extremely critical; approximately 45% of the sector’s workers suffer from more than two occupational illnesses. The sector’s situation makes the construction of this new federation more necessary and urgent, because from our experiences and our inclusive and unitary manner we can set forth a proposal for the productive development of the industry.
Within the current political and economic context, what role do you think that the workers and organisations like that which you are constructing should play?
In the current context the importance of the workers in our [Bolivarian] process is evidenced even more. [Venezuelan president Nicolas] Maduro called on us to confront the economic war that the bourgeoisie and their allies are waging against the Venezuelan people, and we have answered that call. We have answered it demanding that the government take emergency measures: that it assumes control of imports, [and that] we are given the power to verify that the dollars that are given to the bourgeoisie are really being invested in production. We demand that in the case of a company sabotaging production or speculating, that it be nationalised and handed over to the workers and the people.
The only way out of this difficult situation is by seeking the support of the workers and the Bolivarian people, who have demonstrated their capacity of dedication in the most difficult moments, who have offered their blood and lives so that this process can continue. We rescued [late] President Chavez in one of the most perverse maneuvers of the bourgeoisie and imperialism in the 2002 [coup attempt], and every time he called on us, we didn’t fail him. Now we say to Maduro that we haven’t forgotten our comandante’s call on 8 December [2012, Hugo Chavez’s final public address to the nation before his death on 5 March 2013]. We put our strength at the service [of the Bolivarian revolution], of this federation, to fight the fight in this new stage.
Translated and edited by Venezuelanalysis.com