Venezuelan President Increases University and Public Sector Wages by over 40%

Following Monday’s decision to raise the country’s minimum wage by 26.5%, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez this week also announced increases of 40% and 45% for university-based and public administration workers, respectively. 

By Juan Reardon - Venezuelanalysis.com

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Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez speaking to workers on 26 April 2011 (Agencies)
Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez speaking to workers on 26 April 2011 (Agencies)
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Mérida, April 28th 2011 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – Following Monday’s decision to raise the country’s minimum wage by 26.5%, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez this week also announced increases of 40% and 45% for university-based and public administration workers, respectively. Effective on 1 May 2011, President Chávez called on working people throughout Venezuela to use their increased incomes responsibly, in the “fight against speculation, since every time we raise wages the capitalists raise prices,” and asked people to stay away from “the very consumerism that capitalism itself promotes.”  

 40% Increase for All University-based Workers

 Speaking live on national television during Wednesday’s 12-year anniversary celebrations of the rebirth of Venezuela’s National Polytechnic Experimental University of the Bolivarian Armed Forces (UNEFA), Chávez explained the specific wage increases for the higher education community nationwide.   

 “For the university-based professionals; the workers, employees, and professors, those who have gone three years without a wage increase. Well, we’re going to raise their salaries 40%, starting on 1 May (2011), which is a significant amount,” explained Chávez.

 “A full-time professor will soon earn 7,232 BsF per month [1,682 USD], while a professor-instructor will earn 3,335 BsF [776 USD]. And that’s just in salary, since to that figure one must add the food ticket benefits, the bonuses. All this combined means that a full-time professor could be making some 10,000 BsF [2,326USD],” he said.

 To cover the upcoming wage increases, Chávez allotted 4.1 billion BsF [954 million USD], while at the same time authorizing the use of nearly 2.8 billion BsF [651 million USD] to pay debts accrued with university-based workers in 2008 and 2009.

 In addition, the president designated 595.2 million BsF [138 million USD] to cover 2011 budget shortfalls in the following areas: Dining Halls (309 million BsF), transportation (191 million BsF), libraries and educational materials (54.5 million BsF), intensive courses (30 million BsF),   and finally, medical services (10.7 million BsF).

 Chávez also authorized the use of 271 million BsF [63 million USD] to double (from 200 to 400 BsF) [47 to 93 USD] the monthly scholarship amount received by some 87,500 students nationwide, as well as an additional 60 million BsF [14 million USD] to incorporate an additional 12,500 students into the pool of Venezuelans who will receive the monthly subsidy.

 “In the United States and Europe they are cutting salaries, cutting loans and credits, extending the retirement age, firing workers, outsourcing jobs, cutting budgets allotted for health, for education – that’s how the capitalist world works,” said Chávez in an effort to contrast the global economic situation with Venezuela’s own economic conditions.

Public Administration, Including Nurses, Up 45%

 With Wednesday’s release of Gaceta Oficial Number 39.660, Venezuelan workers in the field of public administration also benefited from the Chávez administration’s decision to increase workers’ wages. On average, all public sector workers – including those who work in the public healthcare system – will see a 45% increase in wages come 1 May 2011.

 According to the pay-scale tables published in Gaceta Oficial, Type 1 Public Sector Professionals – a category which includes newly-trained nurses – will have their integral wage increase from the current monthly 3,598 BsF to 4,779 BsF [837 to 1,111 USD], plus food ticket benefits. Type 2 and Type 3 Public Sector Professionals will see their integral wage increase from 3,763 to 5,011 BsF [875 to 1,165 USD] per month, and from 3,819 to 5,017 BsF [888 to 1,166 USD], respectively.

 All public sector employees are granted food ticket benefits that vary depending on the number of days they work in a given month. For months with 31 days, workers obtain 27 tickets [1,026 BsF worth (239 USD)] while for months with 30 days or less they obtain 26 tickets [988 BsF worth (230 USD)].

 Food ticket benefits – commonly referred to as Cesta Tickets – can be spent in any of the government’s many publicly-owned food distribution outlets, as well as numerous private vendors who accept them.   

 As a result of the overall wage increase, a group of nurses on hunger strike since late last month brought their protest to an end. Though their original demand of a minimum 5,000 BsF [1,163 USD] monthly salary was not met directly, protest leader Ana María Velásquez celebrated the wage increase and insisted that their “objective has been reached.”

 Basic Food Basket Measurement

Speaking to teleSUR Wedensday evening, Elías El Juri, president of Venezuela’s National Statistics Institute (INE), put the wage increases into the context of basic food purchases for the average Venezuelan family:

 “The basic food basket [needed to feed a Venezuelan family] is currently estimated to cost 1,589 BsF (370 USD). The minimum wage is scheduled to reach 1,548 BsF (360 USD), but add to this the legal minimum of benefits [food tickets, bonuses, etc.], and the actual minimum amount one earns is set to reach 2,523 BsF (587 USD) – sufficient to cover basic food needs and other costs,” said El Juri.

 El Juri explained that, according to the INE, a “normal” Venezuelan family earns at least two minimum wages, or roughly 5,000 BsF (1,163 USD) after the wage increases scheduled for this year, more than enough to meet their basic food needs.

 El Juri went on to express his concerns as they relate to price speculation.

 “We need policies to confront the business community, those who are often unsatisfied with earnings of 10 to 15% – no, instead, they seek 40% profit margins…we have to win the struggle against price speculation,” he concluded. 

Protecting the Wage Increase

In line with El Juri’s comments, Chávez on Wednesday called for “a powerful campaign against speculation, so that the increase in salaries doesn’t end up in the hands of speculators.”

 On Thursday, Augusto Montiel, President of Venezuela’s Institute for the Defense of People’s Access to Goods and Services (INDEPABIS), warned the private sector against raising prices as a result of wage increases.

 Speaking to Unión Radio, Montiel explained that INEPABIS currently has 280 inspection agents distributed nationwide, and that ‘committees against speculation’ have been established to detect speculators involved in “the criminal act” of illegally raising prices.

 The institute has opened a telephone hotline (0800-reclama) for people to denounce price speculators.

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