Venezuela

The ITUC affiliates in Venezuela are the Alianza Sindical Independiente (ASI) and the Confederación de Trabajadores de Venezuela (CTV).

In practice

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In June 2013, workers at the state iron ore company Ferrominera del Orinoco, in the state of Bolívar, staged a strike for over 10 days to demand the payment of the monies owed to employees and the reinstatement of workers dismissed. The national government responded to the workers’ action by sending the military to occupy the site. The protesters condemned the government’s action, which they labelled as a move to criminalise the constitutional right to strike. Following pressure from the workers, the government ordered that the troops be withdrawn and that dialogue and negotiations be initiated to resolve the dispute, which was settled following a number of agreements between the authorities and the trade union leaders.

According to the UNETE trade union, murders of trade union members and leaders continued to occur in 2012 and 2013. In September 2012, a human rights organisation recorded 65 murders of trade unionists (Report by the Observatorio Venezolano de Conflictividad Social).

In October 2013, the UNETE trade union denounced the harassment of trade union leaders by the Polar Group and its subcontractors. The company brought actions before state bodies requesting dismissals, criminal prosecutions and the filing of police complaints.

In October 2013, the UNETE trade union denounced that the National Electoral Council (CNE) and the Labour Ministry were continuing their practice of interfering in trade union organisations, particularly in their election processes and through the practice by the Ministry and public services bodies of refusing to deal with organisations whose leaders they deemed elected due to electoral default. Although CNE intervention in elections is now optional according to the regulations, it remains a significant obstacle to collective bargaining.

The dispute procedure had to be initiated at the EFE manufacturing company because of the delay in negotiating a new collective agreement and following an almost three-week long strike. In October 2013, the union expressed concern that the arbitration process seemed to be moving towards a deterioration in the labour conditions.

In the case of the chemical-pharmaceutical industry, pharmaceutical laboratories and companies SM Pharma C.A. and SM Esamar C.A. have breached their obligation to pay the benefits established in the three most recent collective bargaining agreements: 2005-2007, 2008-2010 and 2010-2012.

In October 2013, the Unión Nacional de Trabajadores de Venezuela (UNETE) denounced that the government is breaching the agreements in force. This is the case with in excess of 80% of the clauses of the collective bargaining agreement with Petróleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), including the payment of social benefits.

On 30 July 2013, leaders of the unions at the state-owned companies Pescalba and La Gaviota denounced the militarisation of the state-owned edible oil factory “Diana”, located in the state of Carabobo. The factory was militarised when the workers rejected the appointment by the Minister of Food of a new manager.

According to the human rights NGO PROVEA (Programa Venezolano de Educación-Acción en Derechos Humanos), over the last eight years, legislative means have been used to criminalise the right to strike. The group’s coordinator, Marino Alvarado, has highlighted no less than four laws establishing penalties for workers that call or take part in a strike.

In September 2012, an interim injunction prohibiting workers and trade unions at the Agropatria company from demonstrating was imposed by the High Agrarian Court of Aragua and Carabobo by order of the Minister of Agriculture and Land .

In December 2012, workers at the Galletera Carabobo biscuit factory went on strike for nearly 3 months despite a court ruling declaring that the action violated the right to work. In total, 128 workers joined the strike to demand the approval of the collective agreement and respect for freedom of association.

In March 2012, outsourced staff from the state-owned National Electricity Corporation (Corporación Eléctrica Nacional) was not enjoying the benefits of the collective agreement as they were hired directly by the Minister for Energy.

Workers from the state-owned home manufacturer Petrocasa were engaged in a several month long dispute over layoffs and a lack of pay rises at the firm. Workers said they have been shut out of the plant in June 2012 without justification.

In January 2012, a group of 600 workers employed at Polar accused the company of blocking salary discussions during collective bargaining.

On 21 May 2012, an armed assailant entered the EFE ice cream factory (part of the Polar group) in Caracas and asked to see Abraham Rivas, General Secretary of the Sindicato Nacional de Trabajadores Socialistas de Productos EFE and also General Secretary of the recently created Federación Nacional Clasista de Trabajadores de Alimentos, Bebidas, Conexos y Afines (FENACTRALBECA), which organises workers in 21 different companies belonging to the Polar Group. The workers became suspicious and when they called the National Bolivarian Guard it was revealed that the man had been hired to carry out an attack on Abraham Rivas.

In February 2012, Elio Sayago was dismissed from his position as worker-president at the state aluminium company CVG Aluminio del Caroní S.A. (CVG ALCASA) and replaced by Angel Marcano.

The President of the Republic violated ILO Convention 144 on tripartite consultation, exercised political discrimination and ignored the representativeness of trade union organisations not close to the government when on 12 December he appointed a 16-member Special Commission to draft a new Organic Labour Law, all of whom are members of the ruling party. The three trade unionists on the commission are from the recently-created “Bolivarian and Socialist Workers’ Confederation” which was selected by the president.

Unjustified delays in collective bargaining negotiations were common practice during 2009, both in the public and private sectors, giving rise to many trade union protests. The delays resulted in the expiry and failure to renew many collective agreements. By June 2009, 243 collective agreements were left unsigned and over 3.500 agreements had not been discussed.

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