Mérida, November 5, 2008 (venezuelanalysis.com)-- Contract workers of the nationalized Venezuelan steel company, Sidor, are in negotiations with the Minister for Industry and Mining to receive a one time payment of BsF20,000 (US$ 9,300) instead of their previous demands for a wage increase and other workers’ entitlements. However for the second time this week, the minister has not been able to make the meeting with them.
On Wednesday the 8,630 contract workers of Sidor were again left waiting for a response from the Minister for Basic Industry and Mining, Rodolfo Sanz on the exact amount they will be awarded as a “bonus.”
The workers are demanding a bonus compensation of BsF20,000 (US$ 9,300). Until now the government has proposed compensation of BsF5,000 ($US 2,325). Contract workers are currently earning a daily wage of BsF 24 ($US 11), while the permanent workers of Sidor earn BsF 85 ($US 40).
According to a spokesperson of the contract workers, the reason that the meeting with Sanz was suspended was that the minister had been meeting into the late hours of the night with the presidents of Sidor to fine-tune details about economic reductions necessary in face of the financial crisis that is affecting most industries connected to the CVG (Convergent Minerals Limited).
The spokesperson said the meeting had been postponed to Thursday afternoon. However, the suspension of the meeting is the second this week, causing general tension at the plant and the city as in mid-October the contract workers went on strike for 90 hours and blocked traffic on the main road because Sanz had promised to give a definite response to their demands on the Friday previous to the strikes, but did not come.
Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez nationalized Sidor in July of this year and the struggle for that nationalization and for a collective contract that preceded it included the incorporation of contract workers into the payroll.
Contract workers were originally demanding transportation to the plant, access to the dining area, educational material for their children, and wage increases, but negotiations are now just focused on the bonus, which Yosmel Claderon, a contractor worker, explained was part of the promises the government made as part of the transition of contract workers to permanent workers.
Over 100 transport workers will also receive the bonus, after they went on strike for an hour and a half on Monday.
Sanz said that the daily minium wage of BsF60 (US$28) for workers and BsF90 (US$42) for supervisors is unviable in the short term because of the economic impact it would have.
According to a Sidor press statement, the steel company broke its monthly record for steel dispatched, sending 260,183 tons to the Venezuelan market in October, and beating the previous record of 255,000 tons sent in June 2007.
“Thanks to the commitment of the work teams in the different areas involved this new milestone was reached in the development of the national steel industry,” the statement said.
Miguel Alvarez, executive director of Sidor, explained that the record was even more remarkable, as the June 2007 figure was based on 3 dispatch points, where as last month’s is based on just the plant in the state of Bolivar.
Chávez nationalized Sidor after 10 years in the hands of the Argentinean consortium Techint, which bought the factory under the name of Consorcio Amazonia from the previous Venezuelan government of Rafael Caldera in 1998.