Caracas, April 26, 2010 (venezuelanalysis.com) – Venezuela’s principal trade union federation, the National Union of Workers (UNETE), held the second session of its extraordinary congress on Saturday, in a push to re-found the federation.
Hundreds of trade union delegates from all around the country gathered in Union House in El Paraiso, to discuss and vote on new set of statutes for the federation and a plan to organise nationwide elections scheduled for July.
Sectors represented in the congress included electrical workers, pharmaceutical workers, teachers, fire-fighters, gas, petrochemical, oil, automotive, basic industries, public administration, banking and finance, textile, hotels, food and health sectors as well as dockworkers, airports and toll workers and the construction sector among others.
The UNETE was founded in 2003 after the country’s corrupt traditional labour federation, the Confederation of Venezuelan Workers (CTV), participated in the 2002 military coup against the government of President Hugo Chavez as well as a management-led shut down of the oil industry over December 2002 to January 2003 – again in an attempt to overthrow the Chavez government.
UNETE rapidly outstripped the CTV as the country’s principal labour federation, with approximately 80 percent of the Venezuelan unions affiliated to it, however at its 2006 congress the federation collapsed in disarray as a result of factional infighting.
Four main trade union currents have come behind the push to re-found the federation; Marea Socialista (Socialist Tide), the Bolivarian Educators (which also groups other industrial sectors) the Collective of Workers in Revolution (CTR) - all of whom are affiliated to Chavez’s United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) - as well as the Cruz Villegas Class Current, which is aligned with the Venezuelan Communist Party (PCV).
A key focus throughout the conference was on the need to unify the worker’s movement in Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution led by Chavez, which is aimed at building ‘Socialism of the 21st Century.’
Marcela Maspero from the CTR kicked off proceedings with a fiery speech saying that the creation of a powerful and united trade union federation was necessary to deepen the struggle for socialism and would be “a strong blow to bureaucratic sectors that want to hold back this revolutionary process.”
Orlando Perez of the Bolivarian Educators emphasised that under socialism, “workers must control the means of production.”
In this sense Marea Socialist leader, Stalin Perez Borges, pointed to the example of the workers in the electrical sector, led by their union Fetraelec, who won a collective contract after a long struggle against management and are pushing forward with worker’s control to implement a plan, together with the government, to resolve problems in the electricity sector.
Pedro Eusse of the Cruz Villegas current spoke of the need to build a mass campaign to pass a new “revolutionary labour law.”
The conference also heard greetings from Carlos Leavi, secretary general of the Argentine Workers Central (CTA), Manuel Rodriguez, from the World Federation of Unions (FSM), Sumara Oliviera Robeino, from the metro workers union in Belo Horizonte in Brazil, as well as representatives of the Electrical Trades Union (ETU), the Construction Forestry, Energy & Mining Union (CFMEU) and the Australian Manufacturing Workers Union (AMWU), from Australia.
After hours of deliberation and debate the congress approved a new set of statutes and a schedule to hold, for the first time its history, nation-wide elections for the UNETE’s national leadership, by rank and file workers.
Also approved unanimously were a series of resolutions including a motion in solidarity with the fourteen month struggle of Mitsubishi workers to demand that the Labour Minister, Maria Christina Iglesias, put an end to illegal sackings in the plant and reinstate 170 workers including the 11 member board of the union, SINGETRAM and a motion of “unconditional support and solidarity” with the workers from the United National Union of the Caracas University Hospital, SUNTRA- HUC, who were physically attacked on Friday by members of the CTV aligned Hospital & Clinics Union.
Public sector unions also resolved to hold state-based worker’s assemblies to elect a national assembly of spokespeople in order to address issues of concern to public sector workers with the national government.
Following the national congress a meeting was held on Sunday to strengthen international relations of the UNETE with union movements of other countries.
In the face of increased U.S aggression towards Venezuela, UNETE representatives asked trade unions from around the world to help build solidarity with the Bolivarian revolution.