On the fight for workers’ wages: the Venezuelan experience

November 20, 2014

Statement of support from La Solidaridad
(Filipino Solidarity with the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean)
on the fight for workers’ wages: the Venezuelan experience

All Workers Unity hold a nationwide walkout for national minimum wage.

All Workers Unity hold a nationwide walkout for national minimum wage. Image by George San Mateo/PISTON

Filipino workers can learn from the recent example of Venezuela, breaking free from US imperialism despite continuing destabilization moves and economic sabotage.

Under the governments of Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro, a land and industry nationalization drive has been carried out in Venezuela.  Instead of privatization, it increased the state’s role in the economy and promoted greater production and diversification. The government has nationalized 1,314 enterprises and initiated an anti-imperialist people’s trade bloc in the region, the ALBA-TCP.

The Bolivarian government raised the national minimum wage not once but THREE times this year making the current minimum wage 64.5% higher than at the start of the year. The new wage is set at 4,889 bolivars per month (US$776) or P34,920 in Philippine pesos.

This increase did not result in economic slowdown or job losses. In fact, current unemployment rates are at the lowest in 40 years.

An additional adjustment to food tickets, which are mandatorily issued by employers and used like cash at most major supermarkets, increased workers’ access to items hit by inflation. The adjustment raises the allotment which converts to about 95 bolivars (U$15) daily for food or P20,250 monthly (in Philippine pesos).  This is on top of the minimum wage.

Workers unity and government for the working-class

Unlike the Aquino government which recently allowed 100% foreign ownership of banks (Republic Act 10641 or “An Act Allowing the Full Entry of Foreign Banks in the Philippines”), the Venezuela’s Bicentenary Bank, formed in 2009 by the merging of three nationalized banks, is absorbed by a new initiative called the Bicentenary Bank for the Venezuelan Working Class.

The 536 currently functioning agencies now offer specific services directed at clients earning the minimum wage and their families, including high-yield savings accounts. The worker’s bank is also meant to accelerate applications for housing credits.

The Bolivarian Socialist Union of Workers (CBST), which represents 1.3 million workers, point to improved labour rights and social security under the Chavez and Maduro administrations, enshrined within the 2012 Labour Law.

The work law provided workers with a range of rights; it made outsourcing illegal, awarded paternity leave and longer maternity leave, the right to workplace childcare, transport to work, and made it harder for workers to be fired. The CBST also had significant progress made in the agreement of a new collective contract for public sector workers.

Trade unions meet to discuss and propose strategies for the country’s development. The National Workers’ Front for the Deepening of the Bolivarian Revolution, composed mainly of oil and steel workers, called for no more preferential foreign currency to be granted to the private sector, urging that the state should take sole responsibility for imports.

The workers also called for the elimination or reduction of Value Added Tax (VAT), regarding it as a regressive tax. Further, they declared their opposition to “conciliatory and reformist” tendencies within the union movement.

Filipino workers in their nationwide walkout for wages are also in solidarity with Venezuelan workers as we celebrate this December 2014 the 10th anniversary of the Bolivarian Alliance of the People of Our America (ALBA).###