Merida, October 4, 2018 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Public sector workers have amplified protests this week demanding a revision of existing collective contracts in the wake of the economic reforms introduced by President Maduro in August and September, which included a 3000 percent increase in the minimum wage.
Workers from the state-run health, education, postal, industrial, and transport sectors held a range of separate protests echoing the issues raised by state employees, metro, electrical, and telecommunication workers last week.
The demands of the protestors, who mostly belong to pro-government sectors, concern the previously agreed upon pay scales and benefits, which have been effectively annulled amid the recent economic reshuffle. September saw the temporary application of a de-facto unitary pay scale that effectively standardized all salaries at the new monthly minimum wage of 1,800 BsS (around US $18 at the parallel market rate), leaving state institutions and enterprises struggling in the application of the wide-ranging economic changes.
Workers claim that skilled personnel are currently being paid the same as their lower-level counterparts, regardless of years of experience, level of training, or responsibilities in the workplace. They also complain that the numerous benefits and bonus schemes have not been adjusted correspondingly.
The protests continue in a peaceful manner in numerous regions of the country, with no incidents reported. They include marches, blocking streets, and addressing local authorities with workers’ demands.
The new demonstrations follows a series of public sector protests earlier this year, in which largely pro-government workers and farmers demanded that authorities combat corruption, increase investment in infrastructure, as well as improve efficiency and labour conditions in state-run enterprises.
On Tuesday, workers at the nationalised Sidor iron factories in Ciudad Guyana introduced a petition to state labour authorities, threatening, “Troy will burn if the work inspector doesn’t attend to our problems.”
Trade unionists in Nueva Esparta also introduced demands to local authorities, complaining about the standardisation of wage scales.
“What we are demanding is that each worker gets paid according to their merits, according to the pay scale and a collective contract, not a unitary wage,” explained Pedro Semprun, president of the Lawyers Association of Margarita Island.
The recent economic reforms, which also include gold savings plans, a revamped currency, freeing up exchange controls, tax reforms, and modifications in state fuel subsidies, have raised the national minimum wage from 55BsS to 1,800BsS without implementing corresponding pay scales or bonus schemes.
Government authorities, including Labour Minister Eduardo Pinate, have, however, shown willingness to amend the problem.
Metro workers in the Caracas, Valencia, Maracaibo, and Los Teques Metros, as well as train workers, achieved a re-writing of their existing collective contract this week, in which a pay scale will be implemented that takes into account both skill and experience, as well as adjusting all of the bonuses received by the workers. It also includes a new bonus for childcare which the previous collective contract did not have.
Constitutional Assembly Deputy and transport trade unionist Francisco Torrealba told workers that similar agreements are to be reached shortly with other sectors, such as education and health workers, in response to grassroots pressure.
Oil union leader Wills Rangel similarly pledged that all labour benefits and bonuses will be respected for petroleum workers and that a new scale of salaries can be expected this month.