Venezuelan Electrical Workers Call for Nation-wide Electricity Saving Campaign

Union leaders from Venezuela’s electrical sector have warned that if serious and responsible measures are not taken by the nation as a whole, the sector could “collapse completely”.

Union leaders from Venezuela’s electrical sector have warned that if serious and responsible measures are not taken by the nation as a whole, the sector could “collapse completely”.

As a result of the “El Niño” effect, droughts have led to a sharp drop in the water level of the Guri hydroelectric dam, responsible for more than 70% of Venezuela’s electricity.

In a press conference today the electrical workers denounced the “irresponsible” actions opposition political groups who have attempted to deny the effects of the rainfall shortage, and have instead blamed the government of President Hugo Chavez for the crisis in the sector.

By encouraging people to not comply with the energy saving measures, these groups are actively looking to “generate a situation of total collapse” in the sector, warned Angel Navas, president of the Federation of Electrical Workers, FETRAELEC.

“It is impossible nowadays to ignore the impact of climate change” explained Navas. “That is why it is necessary to change our pattern of consuming energy.”

In order to cope with the situation in the electrical sector, the government began a nationwide electricity rationing plan. Moreover, state institutions and commercial businesses have been ordered to reduce energy consumption by 20 percent, and public administration offices that do not provide direct attention to the public will now only be open until 1pm.

Production in the energy-intensive basic industry sector has also been reduced to alleviate the strain on the electricity supplies.

Supporting the government measures, Navas promised that electrical workers would lead by example, reducing individual consumption as well as heading up a consciousness-raising campaign in the communities on how people could reduce their levels of consumption.

Staff in the electrical sector whose offices close at 1pm will incorporate themselves in the afternoon into the government program to redistribute energy-saving light bulbs to households across the country.

Similarly, workers will also assume the responsibility of monitoring public institutions to ensure they comply with the new regulations.

FETRAELEC leaders also called on the government to involve union leaders and workers in the designing of plans for energy rationing and emergency measures in the sector. Workers need to be incorporating into the running of the sector, said Navas.

The workers also criticized the inefficiency of the bureaucracy within the state electricity company, CORPOELEC, which they said was responsible for the chaos caused by the rationing plan, particularly in Caracas.

Electricity rationing, introduced in Caracas on January 11, was halted two days later due to the discontent and problems it caused including electricity outages in some hospitals and schools. This led Chavez to ask for the resignation of the Electricity Minister Angel Rodriguez.

FETRAELEC said the plan had not been designed by the minister, but by the management of CORPOLEC and called on those directly responsible to also hand in their resignations.

 “Did the managers that elaborated the plan not think of the consequences? They are either completely inefficient or they did it on purpose in order to provoke a reaction” Navas denounced.

Francisco Alarcon, secretary general of FETRAELEC, said that the “bureaucrats should be cleaned out of the sector”, and noted that the same managers who designed the rationing plan were the ones that president Hugo Chavez criticized late last year for their inefficiency. Many of them were part of drafting up plans to privatize the sector in the 90s, he added.