The regional representative of one of the centrals excluded from the Social Dialogue Forum with the ILO asserted that there was no significant progress in the meeting, he also alleged that the Venezuelan State continues to deny its responsibility in the violation of labor rights
The regional coordinator of the National Union of Workers of Venezuela (Únete) and general secretary of the National Steel Industry Workers Union (Sidernat), Alejandro Álvarez, condemned the behavior of the International Labor Organization (ILO) in the framework of the Forum of Social Dialogue, alleging that the institution is too complacent with the administration of Nicolás Maduro, which ends up helping to make invisible the violations of labor rights that exist in Venezuela.
Álvarez emphasized that the second stage of the debate, which began on September 23, did not reach any kind of progress, since the release of detained union leaders was not obtained, nor was the restitution of collective bargaining eradicated by the memorandum 2792 in October 2018.
In this sense, the union leader declared that “they are washing the face of the government. It is not the behavior that they should have before this type of dialogue, they are very accommodating ».
The general secretary of Únete, a workers’ union that participated in the dialogue in April, pointed out that the Venezuelan State has not accepted at any time the results presented by the commission of inquiry carried out on Venezuela by the ILO in 2018, on the contrary, it blames the US sanctions and the “economic blockade” of the labor crisis.
«The government continues to say that they do not violate labor rights, they allege that what is happening is the fault of imperialism and the blockade. That is what their speeches are based on. They say that they are sitting there for the ILO to see their good faith, but that they do not share the report of the commission of inquiry. That is what the Labor Minister Francisco Torrealba says.
The survey commission carried out in the country was carried out due to a series of complaints made in 2015 by workers and employers in the country. The report that the ILO presented establishes that in Venezuela the agreements regarding decent wages are not respected, that there is union persecution and that there is no dialogue between the State, employers and workers.
Freedom of association: the fundamental right
After the end of the forum on September 29, it became public knowledge that the only agreement that was reached regarding agreement 87, regarding freedom of association, was to make the electoral processes more flexible to renew the leadership of the unions.
In addition, the State agreed to respect the decision of the organizations to request or not the support of the National Electoral Council as established by the Organic Law of Labor and Workers.
However, the regional representative of Únete argued that this cannot be taken as a concrete advance, since it would only be respecting already established regulations, and also asserted that the State is not going to facilitate electoral processes that it cannot win.
“The issue of resuming union elections is a joke. Wherever the government sees that it has a chance of winning union elections, it will promote them. Where you don’t have a chance, you’re going to slow them down. It should not be about the government making processes more flexible or not: the legislation does not oblige the union to go to the CNE. When they put that in the final document they are not proving anything concrete. In terms of trade union freedom, there was no progress.. The fact of having excluded three centrals already demonstrates the dictatorial nature of this government”, the spokesman for the central criticized.
In this sense, he clarified that Únete, the Confederation of Autonomous Trade Unions of Venezuela (Codesa) and the Unitary Central of Workers of Venezuela (CUTV), did not receive an invitation to the dialogue table for having refused to confirm advances in labor matters during the process of april.
“We did not sign the document because it meant recognizing the government’s progress in complying with the three agreements that are the subject of the complaint. That’s a lie. There was no progress then and there is no progress now,” he said.
In this sense, he assured that the central axis around this agreement must be the liberation of the detained trade unionists and the cessation of union persecution.
“One of the fundamental rights of the ILO is freedom of association, all other rights flow from it. When you have the freedom and the power to sit face to face with the employer, you have the power to demand what you want to ask for under equal conditions. From there follows the possibility of having a fair salary, of having a fair collective agreement. We had to demand the release of our detained comrades. From the month of April to here there are more imprisoned unionists, more imprisoned workers, more workers under that figure of non-required workers that does not exist in the law.
On this subject, the Venezuelan Observatory of Trade Union Freedom indicates that at least 80 union leaders have open judicial proceedings due to activities related to their labor representation positions.
Salary discussion: the maelstrom of collective contracts
In reference to the creation of the technical wage table, whose objective will be to generate indicators to set the minimum wage, the secretary of Sidernat cataloged the initiative as a trap to evade the true duty of the Venezuelan State: to restore collective hiring.
During 2018, in the midst of a context of exacerbated labor harassment and terrorism, the Ministry of Labor promulgated memorandum 2792, a text that gave the green light to job sources, that is, public sector organizations, to ignore the benefits of collective contracts —holidays, social benefits, utilities and other salary bonuses— if these were too “onerous” for the company.
«The salary technical table is a trap. They talk to you about the minimum wage because the government brought everyone to a minimum wage, but nobody wants to talk about collective agreements. Here we must seek the restitution of the rule of law. The recognition of the collective agreements that are law according to the Constitution and the ILO Convention 81 that are also being violated, this agreement gives the force of law to the collective agreements. They threw back 80 years of union struggle », he pointed out.
“Sitting down to talk does not imply that there is progress”
After refusing to sign the first agreement in April and being excluded in the second part of the forum, the representative of Únete argued that as long as the dynamic continues to be led by the State, there will be no significant changes in the reality of Venezuelan workers.
“These people who are coming to lead the dialogue are too flexible to comply with the report that was issued through the commission of inquiry in 2019. We cannot classify simply sitting down as an improvement. We talk for four days, the government repeats that they do not violate human rights, we take photos and leave. People are still imprisoned, fired, with a very poor salary. And it’s not just about salary, it also includes poor working conditions. In companies you work in conditions of great insecurity, there have been accidents and nobody wants to talk about that.
In the same order of ideas, he warned that the ILO has just chosen a new director general, Gilbert F. Houngbo, which may be an opportunity for the Maduro regime to try to improve its diplomatic relations.
«The government is taking advantage of the fact that there was a change of director, it is no longer Guy Ryder. They are playing that with this new director they can relax all the pressures and wash their faces », he affirmed.
With information from Mail of the Caroni