Venezuelan Electrical Workers Contract: ‘A Victory for Workers,’ Says Union President

Angel Navas, president of the Federation of Electrical Workers (Fetraelec) said a new collective agreement in the electrical sector represents a "total victory" for workers and a blow against the bureacracy in the state company who "opposed a single collective agreement."

By Marea Socialista Press
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Caracas, December 23, 2009  (Prensa Marea Socialista ) - With the signing of a single collective contract for the electricity sector “a phase of transformation of the sector begins, as this contract marks the way forward for workers,” said Angel Navas, president of the Federation of Electrical Workers (Fetraelec). Navas made the statements yesterday in an interview with Marea Socialista Press, amid final preparations for the legalization of the collective agreement.

“Last week we reached a final agreement on the contract. Right now we are in the process of formalisation and legalization. We think that in the afternoon today, together with Minister Angel Rodriguez, we will be handing over everything to the Attorney General and other institutions to review these conventions and definitively authorize the collective agreement,” explained Navas.

With its legalization, after one year and six months of struggle by workers and their federation, the new single collective contract not only represents the equalization of benefits and conditions of workers, but represents an important step for the participation of workers and organized people in the management of the company and a blow to the entrenched bureaucracy in Corpoelec [the state-owned electricity company].

“It’s a total victory for the workers. That’s why yesterday, when we held [workers’] assemblies at a national level, there was an air of triumph, joy, victory, because we have been in this struggle for nearly a year and six months, mobilizing workers, marching, fighting against the technocrats who from the beginning opposed the proposed single collective contract in order to defend their privileges.”

“The fact that 14 collective contracts have been merged is historic, because this has not often happened in this country. The contract points toward the fusion of the electricity companies. It aims for one company that eliminates the bureaucracy, that eliminates all those boards of directors, and the vices and corruption we have. These are ultimately a burden on the national budget and the [electricity] rates, which is where all these costs are transferred.”

Explaining some of the other achievements, Navas referred to the fact that “the workers, who had very poor conditions within the sector as a result of discrimination that existed between rich companies and poor companies, today, have justice. These workers particularly came from private enterprises where wages were very close to the minimum wage, with working and social conditions inferior to the workers in larger companies such as EDELCA, CADAFE and Electricidad de Caracas, among others.”

“As of today, a process of equalization begins: now those workers will have the same conditions as those in the large companies in terms of social benefits, in terms of health, education, benefits. All that remains to be standardized is the issue of wages, which will become progressively equalized through three stages, as has been agreed within the collective agreement.”

“That’s a victory because it means workers will have a decent wage.”

Another historic achievement of the contract is Clause 1, “which allows for the liberation of the worker,” Navas explained. Clause 1, which refers to the direct participation of workers and people in the management of the company “sets the axis, the strategic lines, from the standpoint of the working class, of how a socialist enterprise should be, what the model of production relations should be, so that workers participate in the management and decision making,” said Navas.

“For years we have been fighting for this, and during that time we have been deepening this in ideological terms.” Although in earlier times, the bureaucracy was able to put a brake on the process of co-management that was developing in the company, “today, we are a more mature trade union and workers movement. We have learnt from past mistakes. We have taken them onboard as experience so that we don’t return to commit them.”

“That’s why we’re proposing a definitive break with the capitalist model. Over the years we have been creating consciousness among the workers about this change in production relations that we want. And we will not cede or capitulate to those models that do not allow us to create consciousness and open the door to the intellectual development of the worker. We are proposing that we cannot combine these models and coexist with capitalist models if we want to transform a capitalist company into a socialist enterprise.”

Translated by Kiraz Janicke for Venezuelanalysis.com