Caracas Venezuela’s public sector unions protested demanding higher wages and respect for workers’ rights
The demonstration in the center of Caracas was directed against a directive by the National Fiscal Office (Onapre) which invalidates a number of collective bargaining rights. Among other things, a 50% reduction in salary allowances for length of service or education is planned, and wage rates are generally lowered. Onapre reports to the Ministry of Finance and sets the budgets of state institutions.
Following a rally in the capital, attended by hundreds of people, there were several similar protests across the country. Protesters delivered a letter to the Ministry of Labor demanding that Onapre’s orders be lifted because they “disregarded all collective agreements,” said Eduardo Torres, a spokesman for the National Union Coalition. “We are outraged by these pay cuts.”
Demonstrators continued to visit the Supreme Court seat to protest cuts in wages and benefits which they believed were unconstitutional. It was attended mainly by retirees from the public sector, nurses, teachers and university staff.
Another union that participated represented employees of Supra, a municipal waste management company in Caracas.
“The working class has always been on the side of the president [Nicolás] Maduro pleaded guilty and Supra always cleaned the streets, “Graciela Carreño’s employee told reporters. “We call on the president to take a stance on this.”
The union in Supra has organized several protests in recent weeks and temporarily seized the company headquarters. Employees accuse management of defaulting on contracts and reject proposed wage cuts.
Eduardo Sánchez, a spokesman for the Workers’ Union of the Central University of Venezuelan, said Onapre’s plans were “cruel policies” that put workers in “terrible conditions” and forcing them to take a second job or leave the public service altogether. “In the case of university workers, we are talking about 40 to 70 percent cuts in real wages.”
While the protests focused on demands to stop recent wage restructuring plans, they also highlighted other issues such as the high cost of living relative to current wages and the increasing criminalization of trade unionists (America reported21).
The controversial adjustments are accompanied by an almost 20-fold increase in the minimum wage that the government passed in March. The hike, which set the public sector minimum wage at around $ 30 a month, is the first in many months as the government struggled to contain inflation.
Meanwhile, Venezuela saw GDP growth last year for the first time in seven years. Maduro has repeatedly assured that the progressive improvement in the economic situation will lead to a gradual rebuilding of the purchasing power of employees.
The government relied heavily on liberal economic policies in its efforts to stimulate the country’s economy under severe US sanctions. These include the lifting of price and currency controls, tax breaks, increased private sector involvement in state-owned enterprises, and initiatives such as the recently passed law on special economic zones.
Supporters say these are necessary steps to boost the economy, while opponents say they reverse key policies introduced under Hugo Chávez’s previous rule.