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News: Economy | Labor and Workers' Control

Venezuelan Workers Demand Nationalisation of Automotive Industry

Merida, 19th February 2014 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuelan automotive workers have slammed multinational car manufacturers for cutting back production in the country, while the country's largest trade union federation has called for the nationalisation of the industry.

Accusing multinational auto companies of being “imperialist”, this week the National Workers' Union (UNT) called on the government to place car factories under worker control.

“It's clear and evident...that building socialism relies on the working class, indeed the workers' control of the factories,” the UNT stated in a press release.

Workers were expected to hold protests today against cut backs at major firms including Toyota, Ford and General Motors.

Toyota started a six-week shut down at its Cumana plant in Sucre state on 13 February, citing difficulties importing parts. The factory is a major part of Sucre's economy.

1,300 workers have been idled due to the stoppage, while an additional 1,500 indirect jobs have also been affected, according to the company.

Last year, the plant's output was around 9,500 vehicles.

An internal Toyota memo that was circulated by Venezuelan media earlier this month stated the company is in an “extremely difficult situation”, but that worker salaries would be guaranteed for the first two weeks of the work stoppage.

The shutdown has been criticised by President Nicolas Maduro, who accused the company of exhibiting a “parasitic bourgeois mentality”. The president argued that Toyota is exaggerating for political reasons.

“The only thing these little managers want is dollars, dollars and more dollars,” Maduro stated earlier this year.

Union organiser José Marcano has told private broadcaster Globovision that Toyota has “violated contractual benefits because of a lack of [foreign] currency”. “We need sources of income and work,” Marcano added, urging the government to take action to end the cut-backs. “We are the force that will help motorise the whole economic system,” he also stated.

Meanwhile, Ford and General Motors have both indicated they'll also be rolling back operations, citing difficulties with Venezuela's currency exchange system and high inflation.

Gilberto Troya, the head of the workers' union at Ford's plant in Valencia, Carabobo, said the company made the decision to cut production without consulting employees. Describing the decision as “one sided”, Troya stated that workers hadn't been officially informed of a decision to only operate the factory three days a week.

Last week the general secretary of the automotive workers' union, FUTAAC's Christian Pereira said that workers are “distressed” by the sector-wide cut backs.

“Our factories are closing, [companies] ignoring [worker] benefits, forcing economic packages, disguised lay-offs,” Pereira stated, arguing the foreign companies are “part of the economic war”.

Maduro has accused various foreign and domestic owned companies of purposefully trying to undermine his government. He has blamed recent high levels of scarcity and inflation on an “economic war” being waged by parts of the private sector.

Last December the president moved to fix car prices in Venezuela in a bid to slow inflation and tackle speculative pricing.

In 2013 72,000 vehicles were made in Venezuela, according to figures from the Automotive Chamber of Venezuela (Cavenez); a 30% drop since 2012. Last month the sector's output was 85% lower than January 2013. Of the 296 units produced last month, 291 were made by Toyota.

Published on Feb 19th 2014 at 9.10pm