Mérida, February 12, 2009 (venezuelanalysis.com)-- After over 7,000 workers were fired by the recently elected opposition Mayor of Greater Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, some of the workers protested, prompting back-and-forth accusations around the facts of the situation, violence or not at the protests, and fulfillment of mayoral responsibilities.
Of the 7,254 workers who were fired from the Metropolitan city offices, 232 were people with disabilities, 243 were older-aged people, and 123 were pregnant women. The workers’ contracts were not renewed on 31 December 2008, but they are arguing that their right to work is guaranteed in the constitution.
According to the vice president of Venezuela, Ramon Carrizales, 18,000 people in total have been fired in mayoralties won by the opposition in the regional elections last November.
On Tuesday over 300 people with disabilities or limited mobility, such as older people, pregnant women, or women with small children, protested in front of Mayoral headquarters, calling on the Mayor to re-hire them.
They read a statement rejecting Ledezma’s assertions that they were criminals and “armed occupying groups on the edge of the law” and many held “Si” placards, supporting the upcoming vote to amend the constitution.
Luis Rojas, representing the employees with disabilities, responded to another assertion by Ledezma that he had hired fifty people with disabilities, “Its not true what the mayor Ledezma said…we haven’t signed any contracts. That is, we are still dismissed.”
Rojas said the list of 50 that Ledezma had presented was invalid because he hadn’t carried out any formal actions that would guarantee the workers’ right to work.
“Nor have we been paid what they owe us… Mayor Ledezma is lying to people saying that he hired people with disabilities,” added Jesus Rios, the representative of the Metropolitan Council for People with Disabilities.
In November 2006 the law for people with disabilities was passed, guaranteeing people with motor, auditory, intellectual and visual disabilities medical assistance and promoting their incorporation in the workforce. Companies, regardless of size must ensure that 5% of their hired workforce includes people with disabilities.
Rios said he believed Ledezma wanted to put on a “media show,” using the situation of the fired workers. He also said the list of 50 was incomplete because, “there are more than 120 of us who work in the mayoral administration.”
According to Rios, Ledezma told the press, “Disabled people aren’t good workers, but I’m going to hire them.” Rios said that they wanted respect and that after recovering their work as social promoters in the mayoralty, the first thing they would do was organize a workshop aimed at the new city mayor authorities, to sensitize them, “so that the mayor and his work team become aware that we are capable, and that they are familiar with …the training we’ve received …and that we have only been recognized by the government of President Chavez.”
Carrizales said it was a genuine labor conflict, not a violent occupation as Ledezma has previously asserted, and reported that Ledezma has refused to meet with the workers as they had proposed, to find a solution to the conflict.
In response, Ledezma accused Carrizalez of distorting reality when he claimed the mayoral officers weren’t occupied, and that 7,000 workers had been fired.
“It’s an ode to cynicism. It’s known that these are violent groups, who also recently kidnapped the director of Culture… I haven’t fired absolutely anyone. The contract ended on December 31 last year.”
Ledezma said the protesting workers belonged to “ghost payrolls” created by the previous mayor Juan Barreto and accused the “Chavez supporters” of occupying the headquarters and not letting him work.
According to the oppositional newspaper El National, Ledezma showed photos of the “violent groups” in the office.
Ledezma also accused some of the legislators and city councilors of being on multiple payrolls, and Carlos Medina, National Assembly legislator rejected those accusations.
The metropolitan city councilor, Richard Penalver, later accused Ledezma of trying to abuse the population with the creation of the Security Corporation, as an “organization of repression against the people.”
Penalver said Ledezma can’t create the corporation because he doesn’t have the necessary 9 votes in the city council.
Finally, another city councilor, Alexander Nebreda, accused Ledezma on Wednesday of being like a “ghost” because “after two months of having been elected mayor nobody has seen him carry out any projects towards constructing a city mayoralty at the service of the community.”
Further, Nebreda accused Ledezma of political persecution for firing the 7,000 workers and of obliging the permanent staff to participate in political activities for the opposition.
“You [Ledezma] oblige them to wear ‘No’ [to the amendment] t-shirts, you oblige them to march…because you, sir Ledezma, don’t have people.”
National Assembly legislator, Juan Dugarte, also said Ledezma had used mayoral resources for publicity campaigns against the constitutional amendment
The fired workers have decided to stay outside the city mayor headquarters and go on a hunger strike until Ledezma talks to them.