Caracas, May 2, 2022 (venezuelanalysis.com) – The Venezuelan government will pay a one-time bonus to workers who retired between January 1, 2018 and May 1, 2022.
The 10,000 bolívar sum, around US $2,200, will be paid in three installments and is meant to compensate workers who had their retirement settlements pulverized by high inflation.
“There were people who retired with miserable compensation,” Maduro said during a rally on Sunday that saw thousands take to the streets of Caracas to commemorate International Workers’ Day.
The Venezuelan president added that the payment was about providing pensioners with “fair compensation for 30 years of work” and that a similar measure was being evaluated for people who retired prior to 2018 as well. Accumulated inflation in the Caribbean nation hit 130,000 percent in 2018 before decreasing to 9,583, 2,961 and 687 percent in subsequent years.
The large-scale march featuring trade unions and other Chavista organizations saw Maduro praise the working class’ “resistance” against US sanctions as well as make a number of other worker-related announcements. He unveiled a new “tourism and recreation” system that will allow workers and their families to take vacations in specific touristic destinations with all expenses paid. Maduro pledged more details in the coming days.
Other initiatives included housing plans for workers, a new “Digital Workers’ Bank” where benefits will be deposited and a special fund to support “entrepreneurial projects” led by trade unions or cooperatives.
Sunday’s march likewise commemorated the 10-year anniversary of the landmark Labor Law approved by the Hugo Chávez government in 2012. President Maduro called on the country’s National Assembly to settle a “legislative debt” by approving bills regulating work and rights for specific sectors.
A years-long economic crisis and crushing US sanctions have seen Venezuelan authorities turn to increasingly liberal and orthodox policies such as deregulation and tax breaks. Labor rights have been significantly eroded, with the Memorandum 2792 eliminating collective bargaining rights in 2018.
With the Venezuelan economy recovering in 2021 and strong forecasts for 2022, the Maduro administration has struck new collective agreements in specific sectors such as oil and petrochemicals. On Sunday, he called on Vice President Delcy Rodríguez to review collective contracts in all areas.
The Venezuelan leader stressed that the economic recovery would lead to a gradual recovery of workers’ purchasing power through wage increases, and that this would happen “without fuss.”
The Venezuelan government upped the minimum wage nearly twentyfold in March to $30 a month. The amount remains far from covering living expenses, with the monthly food basket presently estimated at over $350.
‘Autonomous’ unions hold separate demonstration
Venezuela’s May Day saw another march take place in Caracas as a number of trade unions and leftist forces rallied to demand higher wages and an end to the criminalization of labor struggles.
In an assembly with around 200 workers, speakers presented current challenges in public and private companies alike as well as demands from the government. Teachers, nurses and food processing were some of the sectors present.
Eduardo Sánchez, representative from the Central University of Venezuela (UCV) union SINATRA, told Venezuelanalysis that workers opposed the “neoliberal measures” the government was implementing, including new salary scales that mean wage cuts “up to 60 percent.”
“We are trying to unify the struggle at the grassroots level,” he explained, criticizing “pitiful unions that support anti-worker measures or defend business interests.”
For his part, Pedro Eusse, secretary-general of the Unitary Workers’ Central (CUTV) and member of the Venezuelan Communist Party (PCV) politburo, stressed the need for the trade union movement to be “autonomous and independent.”
“The government has placed the weight of imperialist sanctions on the working class,” he said. “Beyond punctual measures such as demanding a living wage, or opposing outsourcing, we need to define a broader labor struggle program.”
A common demand in the rally was the release of a number of workers detained for allegedly defending workplace rights and denouncing corruption. A number of collectives ran a #1eroMayoSinTrabajadoresPresos (“May 1st without detained workers”) social media campaign to draw attention to a growing criminalization of labor struggles.