Mérida, February 11th 2011 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Nearly ten thousand workers marched in downtown Caracas yesterday to demonstrate their support for the Bolivarian government’s social policies and to push for further advances in worker’s rights and working conditions in Venezuela.
Members of health, education, electricity, oil and other sectors marched to the National Assembly to demand, among other things, the signing into law of labor legislation which has been under discussion since 2003. National Assembly President, Fernando Soto Rojas, met with marchers personally to receive their written statement and demands.
“Never in the political history of this country has the working class had such possibilities for social inclusion,” declared Wills Rangel, President of the United Federation of Oil Workers.
Since the start of the Bolivarian Revolution, Venezuelans have seen a five fold increase in pensions, a large decrease in unemployment and one of the highest minimum wages in Latin America when measuring the Venezuelan Bolivar at the official exchange rate of 4.30VEB to 1USD, according to Correo del Orinoco International.
As cited by Venezuelan Minister of Foreign Affairs Nicolás Maduro during his presentation to the National Assembly this week, 60% of the country’s national budget is now spent on social services.
Pedro Rojas, Secretary General of Petroleum Workers’ Union, described the purpose of yesterday’s march.
“The objective [of this march] is to support the revolutionary process and to dismantle the current international media campaign that says here in Venezuela worker’s rights are violated,” he said.
“Quite the contrary,” he continued, “here in Venezuela working people have been guaranteed more inclusion, more opportunities than ever…in additional, more than 3,000 unions have been born in these 12 years of revolution,” he told teleSUR reporters during the march.
“Today we will present – as a ‘Legislature of the People’ – our support for the revolutionary parliamentarians who we count on,” said Wilmer Nolasco, President of United Construction Industry Workers’ Union (SUTIC).
“We are convinced that they…will sign this [Organic Labor] Law, including in it our proposals and our solutions to the problems faced by all working people,” he concluded.
One of the “proposals” referred to by Nolasco is the removal of Article 125 from the Organic Labor Law currently under discussion, since, he said, it establishes “poverty-inducing” compensation for workers fired without justification.
In addition, marchers called for all Venezuelans over the age of 80 to be guaranteed social security benefits, regardless of their contributions or lack thereof. Maduro on confirmed that plans are underway for food tickets benefits to reach the elderly before 1 May 2011.
The most popular elements of the proposed labor law include abolishing the so-called “subcontracted worker” position, requiring employers – both public and private – to incorporate all workers as fixed, benefit-assured workers; reducing the legal workday from eight to six hours, allotting paid time for workers’ councils as well as political education; and the establishing of a national fund for worker stability that would include payments to thousands of workers denied their legal rights by former employers before and during the arrival of the Bolivarian Revolution.
In recent weeks, the governing United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) has hosted numerous discussions nationwide – in parks, plazas, schools and community centers – to secure greater popular participation in the development of the law before its final drafting and signing into law.
Earlier this month, less than a thousand people responded to the opposition aligned Venezuelan Workers’ Federation (CTV) call to march against nationalizations by the Chavez government as well as what they called a “criminalization of dissent.” They received support from opposition student groups and the Democratic Unity Roundtable (MUD). The CTV has also received financial support from the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) and the US Agency for International Development (USAID), as well as the AFL-CIO.”
During open air discussion of the pending labor law in Caracas’s Plaza Bolivar last week, National Revolutionary Workers’ Front (FNTR) representative Juan Carlos López spoke of the CTV march.
“To those [marchers], to those who sold out [privatized] the public sector, to that fifth column, we are here to affirm that we are the real working class,” he said.