Mérida, 11 December 2011 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – A Presidential Commission to draft a new labour law was announced by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez yesterday, as workers handed over 656,815 signatures in support of the law.
In November Chavez announced that he would pass a new “truly revolutionary and socialist labour law” using his enabling law powers, which were granted to him for 18 months by the country’s National Assembly (AN) in December 2010.
The Venezuelan president stated that the new Commission, which is constituted of 16 members from both government and civil society, is charged with “the gathering of opinions and ideas in order to assemble and promulgate the new Labour Law”. The president expects to pass the new law by 1 May 2012, International Workers’ Day.
From the executive, Maria Cristina Iglesias, Nicolas Maduro, and Jorge Giordani, ministers of labour, foreign affairs, and finance and planning respectively, will assume posts in the commission. The Procurator General of the Republic, Carlos Escarra, two Supreme Court magistrates, and four AN members will represent the judicial and legislative branches of government.
Meanwhile, the president and the coordinator of the Bolivarian Socialist Workers Central, Wills Rangel and Carlos Lopez, the president of small and medium manufactures body Fedeindustria, and three lawyers and legal experts complete the composition of the Commission.
Debating the Drafting and Passage of the Law
Wills Rangel and twenty-two workers also handed Chavez 656,815 signatures in support of the law yesterday, which had been collected in conjunction with several days of events promoting awareness of the new law in 15 states throughout the country.
He continued that the aim is to gather a total of 1,300,000 signatures, “so that, Mr. President, you approve by enabling powers this new Labour Law within the conception of a socialist State”.
When Chavez announced in November he would pass a new labour law using his enabling powers many workers’ organisations celebrated the move, after discussions of the law, which was first proposed in 2003, had been held up in the AN on several occasions. Chavez also stated the law would be drafted in direct consultation with the Venezuelan people and workers.
However other organisations, including the Venezuelan Communist Party (PCV) and the National Workers Union (UNETE), were initially in favour of the law being passed through the AN rather than by presidential decree. While the PCV and UNETE now agree with decree powers as a means to pass the law, they argue that the working class must have direct input into its drafting.
For its part, the PCV launched their Integral Action Plan on Saturday 3 December, which according the PCV’s Popular Tribune, brings together the UNETE and other workers’ organisations to “boost a united and national debate around the need to conquer a new and revolutionary Labour Law” and will present proposals “emanated from the union and working class movement about the main content the Labour Law should have”.
Oscar Figuera, leader of the PCV, has also declared that workers should mobilise in the streets to make sure that the new law is of a “revolutionary” nature, and recognises the political rights of workers to organise in the workplace.
Speaking yesterday, Chavez declared the new law would constitute “a redress to the Venezuelan working class in relation to the great historical robbery of capitalism and the bourgeoisie”.
The law will replace the existing labour law, passed in 1997 by president Rafael Caldera under pressure from the IMF, which removed legal requirements from employers such as severance pay and compensation for unfair dismissal. Chavez has announced the new law will reinstate these requirements and benefits, as well as repay the money taken from the Venezuelan working class during this time.