Venezuelan Workers Demonstrate for Nationalization of Idle Factory

Workers of the occupied factory Sanitarios Maracay marched to Miraflores Palace on last week to demand its nationalization.

Caracas, December 21, 2006 (—Workers of the occupied factory Sanitarios Maracay marched to Miraflores Palaceon last week to demand its nationalization.

Organizers said around 1,000people marched who were mainly Sanitarios workers and their families.

Workers are demanding the nationalization of the company, which producesceramic bathroom products, after they occupied their workplace on November 14and restarted production for the local community. The previous owner hadclosed the factory after several years of unending conflict with the workers.

Alvaro Pocaterra and his family who are Venezuelanhave owned the factory for 47 years. According to the workers the owner hasconsistently tried to avoid paying bonuses and other payments. Also,during the boss’s lockout of the oil industry in 2002, Sanitarios was also closedfor two months, in an attempt to bring down the government.

The march started at the state prosecutor’s office in Carabobo Parkand from there it made its way to the National Assembly (AN). There theworkers demanded a meeting with the commission of deputies responsible for theindustrial relations.

The workers claimed there was good reason for this. The day before MarcelaMáspero, a leader of the National Union of Workers (UNT) had met with 20administrative employees of Sanitarios who supported the former factory ownerAlvaro Pocaterra against the workers’ occupation of the factory. They hadset up an alternative union that opposed the overwhelming majority of theworkforce.

In addition to the Sanitarios workers and their families there were workers fromArugua state and there was also representation of half the workers from Inveval,the co-managed valve factory. Leading figures of the UNT were alsopresent on the march including other leaders of the UNT such as Orlando Chirinoand Stalin Perez.

Stalin Perez was among those who made speeches backing the workers of Sanitarios. Following Perez, José Quintero of Inveval spoke, who he encouraged workers allover Venezuelato support the struggle at Sanitarios and said that factories across thecountry should be occupying their workplaces and doing the same.

The last person to speak was José Villegas, one of the leaders of Sanitarios’sown union. He said that the workers had made massive gains already andthat they could only move forward. He finished by thanking those whocame, "I’d like to thank the Revolutionary Marxist Current, the UNT andthe CCURA for their support, Orlando Chirino, Emilio Bastidas (UNT and CCURAleaders), and particularly comrades Carlos (CMR and Freteco) and Wanderci (fromthe Brazilian occupied factory Cipla and the movement of occupied factories inBrazil)."

A small delegation from the march finally went inside the AN to meet with thegroup of deputies. The deputies agreed to visit the factory on January 11and a meeting would be set up with the Ministry of Light Industry and Commerce(MILCO).

After the apparent success at the AN the workers continued to Miraflores Palace,where they handed in a petition to President Chávez demanding nationalization.

The march included about 600 of the 800 workers from Sanitarios, a largeproportion of the remainder stayed at the factory to ensure its continuedoccupation.