Venezuelan Government, Sidor Workers Sign New Collective Contract

Workers from the state-owned steel plant Sidor in Guayana City have signed a new collective contract, Minister of Industry José David Cabello announced on Thursday. The contract ends a long-standing dispute between workers and the national government, who have spent over two years in negotiations after the last collective contract expired in 2010.

By Sascha Bercovitch
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Sidor Workers’ Trade Union (Sutiss) leaders with Minister of Industry José David Cabello (@jdavidcabello)
Sidor Workers’ Trade Union (Sutiss) leaders with Minister of Industry José David Cabello (@jdavidcabello)

Caracas, September 5th 2014 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Workers from the state-owned steel plant Sidor in Guayana City have signed a new collective contract, Minister of Industry José David Cabello announced on Thursday. The contract ends a long-standing dispute between workers and the national government, who have spent over two years in negotiations after the last collective contract expired in 2010. 

“This act addresses the labor issues that have arisen and in turn recognizes the effort of the workers in Guayana,” Cabello said. “This agreement is based on the peace that should exist there, and ratifies the idea that claims should be dealt with through dialogue and communication.”

Sidor Workers’ Trade Union (Sutiss) Secretary General Julio López, also present at the announcement, characterized the contract as a “compromise.”

“I assume this challenge, because as of today we are honoring the historic commitment left to us by [late] President [Hugo] Chávez. In this sense we are ratifying our commitment to the revolution and to the socialism of our Bolivarian government, led by our worker-president, Nicolas Maduro,¨ López said.

“These initiatives will satisfy the needs of Sidor, and as a result we will no longer close our doors and stop our productivity,¨ he added. 

The key terms of the new contract include a daily salary increase of 170 bolivars (about $27 USD by the official exchange rate) to be realized in installments throughout the year, an investment plan to revitalize production, and a retirement plan which López assured workers was “worthy of them.”

The government also agreed to retroactively pay 200,000 bolivars for the time it took to negotiate the contract, a response to workers’ complaints of a reduced wage value due to inflation. 

López was one of several key Sutiss members not included in final contract negotiations with the government. After the contract was originally announced in August, López protested against it on the grounds of his exclusion and the fact that it had not attained collective worker approval.

The following week, however, the factory resumed operations, and protests from workers, which had previously ignited tensions with the national government and conflict with the National Guard, died down.