Caracas, July 15, 2023 (venezuelanalysis.com) – A coalition of grassroots collectives held a demonstration on Friday in Caracas in defense of labor rights.
The so-called Popular Front in Defense of Salaries (Spanish acronym Frenpodes), which brings together a number of leftist Chavista organizations, organized the mobilization to deliver a writ of amparo before the Venezuelan Supreme Court.
The document requests that Venezuela’s maximum judicial authority take action on two matters pertaining to working-class wages. On the one hand, the Frenpodes signatories argue that a minimum wage increase is overdue since Article 91 of the Venezuelan Constitution stipulates that the adjustment take place once a year. The Nicolás Maduro government last raised the minimum wage in March 2022.
On the other hand, the writ contends that non-wage bonuses currently being paid on a monthly basis to workers and pensioners should be considered as part of salaries according to Venezuelan labor legislation. This would have them taken into account for a number of labor benefits such as vacation pay and social security contributions.
“Our main goal today is to contribute to the struggle that many sectors, trade unions chief among them, have been pushing in order to protect and defend working-class salaries and pensions,” Marisol Guedez, one of Frenpodes spokespeople for the activity, told Venezuelanalysis.
The demonstration drew around 150 people from the different organizations that come together in Frenpodes, as well as from other leftist collectives that joined the mobilization.
“It’s a farce when right-wing forces claim to fight for labor rights, but Chavista organizations have been absent from this struggle in recent times,” stated Antonio González, member of Frenpodes and of human rights collective Surgentes. “We, as a group of popular, leftist, class-based organizations, decided that we needed to reclaim these flags, which are at the heart of Chavismo.”
After gathering at the Pantheon Boulevard in central Caracas, the protesters then marched to the Supreme Court where a commission went in to deliver the writ. Other organizations are now free to adhere to the document as well. There is no established timeline for judicial authorities to address the demands.
“This writ of amparo calls for the defense of the Constitution’s Article 91 and of our right to dignified wages,” Frenpodes member Yazmin Linares, who hails from the Bolívar-Chávez Popular Movement in Defense of the Constitution, explained to Venezuelanalysis.
“Frenpodes was born within the Chavista camp precisely to take a stand on this matter which is of maximum urgency for our people,” she added. “No matter who governs, rights have to be defended.”
Amidst a challenging economic reality under crushing US sanctions, the Maduro government has turned to more orthodox, liberal policies in its efforts to jumpstart recovery. In particular, it has slowed down salary increases as a strategy to slow down inflation.
In contrast, it has opted to raise non-wage bonuses. On May 1st, the executive set the monthly food bonus received by active workers at US $40 and the so-called “economic war bonus” at $30. Public sector retirees receive a single $49 monthly payment, while pensioners earn a $20 economic war bonus. The minimum wage and pension have remained at 130 bolívars (BsD) since March 2022, worth around $4.5 at the present exchange rate.
Trade unions and popular organizations, including Frenpodes, have denounced that the growing weight of bonuses favors employers and increases labor precariousness. It likewise hurts a number of benefits that are computed as a function of the salary, such as vacation subsidies, social security, overtime and severance pay.
Frenpodes has also been a leading advocate for the indexation of wages and pensions as a way to shield them from inflation. Economists Tony Boza and Juan Carlos Valdez, who have been active in the newly-formed movement, claim that economic policymakers are skewed by a monetarist outlook.