Caracas, October 25, 2005–Over 150 representatives from several worker-occupied factories and other labor organizations in Venezuela met on October 21 and 22 in Caracas to discuss the future direction of the movement. At the conference a leading national coordinator of the National Union of Venezuelan Workers (UNT), Marcella Maspero, repeated that the government intends to bring up to 700 more factories into the co-management scheme, “to generate production, value and employment.”
The meeting was hosted by the pro-government Trade Union Federation UNT at their congress centre. Two Ministers from the Government attended as well as academics and trade unionists. There were also many representatives in the movement for Cogestion, which roughly means worker’s co-management. The details of an international meeting of the same type scheduled for October 26-28 were also discussed. Other issues included what co-management should be and how much these factories should act beyond their own interests.
In the past few years several companies thought to be failing have been taken over by their employees and run on a co-management basis. The way this has been done has been different with different factories. Several have been the result of long workers struggles in opposition to their management, such as with Invepal, a paper mill in the town of Morón. Others have been entered into more willingly. Once under co-management. workers normally elect representatives onto the board of directors boards of their companies and are generally more consulted about their work-life.
The Venezuelan Government has encouraged this type of management. Several state-owned companies have become co-managed such as the electricity supplier CADAFE. Companies that become occupied often have 51% of their shares bought by the government with the rest going to the workers. In these cases the government also sends representatives to the managerial and directorial boards. Dozens of smaller and medium sized private firms have also become co-managed and received financial support from the government in return.
Eduardo Murua, the president of the Argentinean Movement of Recovered Companies, or MNER, spoke at the conference criticizing the Argentinean government’s attitude to worker occupation. He said Nestor Kirchner’s government is, “cynical and intends to use the workers struggles to confirm, and not overturn, the current economic system.” Murua also spoke of the repression which worker-occupied factories had suffered in Argentina from state security forces.
Although he recognized the Venezuelan government was much more sympathetic to the process of co-management he said that Venezuelan workers should not wait for the government to give them permission to take over their workplaces. Murua said if an employer closed a factory the workers should move straight away to, “occupy it, try to start production, and discuss the legal aspects later.”
Professor Michael Lebowitz and Luis Primo, a UNT National Co-ordinator, discussed what co-management should mean. Lebowitz, a specialist on workers management in Yugoslavia, said that Venezuela should not make the same mistakes as European countries that have attempted it. He explained how in Germany co-management was used as, “a means of incorporating workers into the project of capitalists … in Venezuela though, co-management is an alternative to capitalism.”
For a more detailed account of this conference by Jorge Martin of Hands Off Venezuela see: Venezuelan trade unionists discuss workers’ management and factory occupations