Car Assembly Workers Say Sector Faces Difficulty in Venezuela

A Venezuelan car assembly worker union has warned that the sector faces production and labour difficulties, and has requested that the government implements a strategy to promote greater national car manufacturing.

By Ewan Robertson
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Mérida, 31st January 2014 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – A Venezuelan car assembly worker union has warned that the sector faces production and labour difficulties, and has requested that the government implements a strategy to promote greater national car manufacturing.

The Federation of Automobile and Related Industry Workers (FUTAAC) released a statement on Wednesday warning that production in several car assembly factories is either reduced or stalled.

The union complained that workers are not receiving information from the government about the situation and that “the little information we have is supplied by the bosses”, who blame production problems on a lack of dollars being approved for the importation of unassembled cars.

The FUTAAC further said that the pro-revolutionary worker movement in the automobile industry is at risk of demoralisation. According to the labour organisation, management in some car assembly factories have been breaking contractual obligations and are manoeuvring for a “mass dismissal of workers”.

In mid January Ford announced that it had reduced production in Venezuela to a quarter of normal capacity, citing “limited and uneven” access to foreign currency as the cause.

Venezuela has used a system of currency controls since 2003 in order to prevent capital flight, control prices and reduce inflation, among other objectives. However the system was put under strain last year as the “black market” dollar increased to tenfold the official value and currency scams flourished.

The government recently announced an overhaul in the controls, and aims to distribute foreign currency for imports in a more “rational” and efficient way this year.

Yesterday a government decree made official new rules under which car assemblers can import parts for assembly, with which is it hoped to increase the number of vehicles assembled in the country.

The FUTAAC statement urged the government to go further and implement a strategy to manufacture vehicles in Venezuela from scratch, and not just assemble them. They argued this would create jobs and reduce Venezuela’s dependence on foreign imports.

In a second statement released yesterday on Aporrea.org, the FUTAAC union also condemned the presence of National Guard officers at a Toyota assembly plant in the eastern town of Cumaná. The workers at the plant were meeting in an assembly to discuss management’s alleged violation of contractual and labour rights.

While no violence ensued according to the statement, the union accused the National Guard of behaving in a threatening way towards the workers. “We don’t oppose the policies that this executive [President Maduro] dictates, [but]…the homeland is not made like this, criminalising and repressing the working people that support [the government]”, the union said.

The National Guard said they were on the premises to ensure that President Maduro’s decree regulating the “fair price” of car assembly production was being observed.

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