Mérida, March 24th, 2011 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – The International Labor Organization (ILO) on Wednesday denied a request by Venezuela’s largest business association, Fedecamaras, to launch an ILO inquiry into supposed violations of rights in Venezuelan.
Responding to an ongoing case brought against the Chávez government by Fedecamaras, the ILO Administrative Council found Fedecamaras’ accusations to be “inconsistent” with Venezuela’s political and social reality. A number of Venezuelan labor leaders celebrated the decision, calling it a “devastating blow” to attempts by anti-Chávez forces to discredit the Bolivarian Revolution in international circles.
Venezuela’s Federation of Associations and Chambers of Commerce and Production (Fedecámaras) and the International Organization of Employers (IOE) first filed their ILO case against the Chávez government in 2004, accusing the Venezuelan government of “marginalization and exclusion” of employers’ associations in decision-making processes throughout Venezuela. Among other charges, the associations accused the Chávez government of enacting legislation that is “at odds with civil liberties and the rights of employers’ organizations,” and requested an ILO Commission of Inquiry be formed to confirm or deny said violations.
As the ILO governing body brought its 3-25 March 2011 Geneva, Switzerland meeting to a close, its Committee on Freedom of Association concluded that “the complainant organizations [Fedecámaras and IOE]” needed to provide the ILO with concrete evidence “as to the relationship between the allegations and the violation of Conventions No. 87 and 98.”
Having reviewed and commented on an extensive number of the employers’ associations’ accusations as well as numerous government responses, the ILO found insufficient evidence to demonstrate actual violations of the Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organize Convention (No. 87, Enacted 1948) or the Right to Organize and Collective Bargaining Convention (No. 98, Enacted 1949). Without proof of concrete violations of international labor conventions, the ILO was unwilling to recommend a Commission of Inquiry as sought by the employers’ associations.
Article 26 of the ILO’s Constitution grants all members of the ILO – including employers’ associations – the right to request a Commission of Inquiry if they can demonstrate their rights have been violated.
According to Marcela Máspero, president of Venezuela’s National Workers’ Union (UNETE), an ILO Commission of Inquiry carries legal weight within the International Court of Justice (ICJ), which is why, she says, Fedecámaras has sought such a commission all along.
“All these years Fedecámaras has come to Geneva looking for what it lacks in Venezuela,” said Máspero in reference to legal mechanisms that could help the employers’ association halt worker radicalization in Venezuela.
According to Máspero, Fedecámaras “wanted to take political advantage” of ILO mechanisms so as to continue its international campaign against the Chávez government.
“This time we were successful in defeating capitalism on the international stage,” said the UNETE leader.
Máspero went on to thank Leroy Trotman, General Secretary of the Barbados Workers’ Union and spokesperson of the ILO Governing Body Workers’ Group, for his position on the issue.
“We (UNETE) are very satisfied with the declarations made by the ILO Workers’ Group president, who affirmed that they (workers) had ‘had enough’ of Fedecámaras using the ILO stage, an entity of the United Nations” for the political aspirations of an employers’ association, said Máspero.
UNETE is pressing for a radical new labor law that has been stalled in Venezuela’s national assembly since 2003.
“You can’t go against a government that is working towards the equal distribution of the riches amongst its people and where the collective interest prevails over the individual’s interests…that’s called social justice,” said Trotman in reference to the Fedecámaras case against the Chávez government at the UN’s ILO.
According to the ILO’s own description, it is “responsible for drawing up and overseeing international labor standards.” It is also, “the only ‘tripartite’ United Nations agency that brings together representatives of governments, employers and workers to jointly shape policies and programmes promoting Decent Work for all.”
Since 2000, Venezuela’s Fedecámaras has continuously accused the Chávez government of violating employers’ rights to participate in both workplace decision-making and national politics. After a failed coup d’état in April 2002 that saw Fedecámaras president Pedro Carmona installed as interim president, that relationship grew worse.
At the end of 2002, Fedecámaras and the opposition-controlled Venezuelan Workers’ Confederation (CTV) brought the Venezuelan economy to a standstill in what is now popularly known as the “oil lockout” of December 2002 to February 2003.
The Fedecámaras-backed lockout brought oil production in Venezuela down from 3.2 million barrels per day in October-November 2002 to around 25,000 barrels per day in December 2002 – January 2003, causing an estimated $US 13 billion in losses to the government.
Beginning in 2004 and in almost every ILO meeting since, Fedecámaras has taken its accusations against the Chávez government to the international stage, often succeeding in having the international organization express “its concern” about the situation in Venezuela.