Electricity workers have been without collective convention for a year and a half

The companies providing electricity are privatised in Venezuela. One of the bigger companies is Cadafe, it has five outlets and employs 14.000 people. There has been a record of chronic underinvestment in the electricity sector including by the Chavez government.

The trade union Fetraelec has balloted members over strike action about the signing of a new collective agreement about wages, bonuses and job security. The last collective agreement ended more than a year ago. Since then company management has been dragging its feet to sign a new agreement.

Significantly the president of the company, Nervis Villalobos is also vice minister of Energy in the Chavez government. The same Nervis Villalobos called yesterday on all retired technical staff and on unemployed technicians to present themselves at the recruiting centre of the company. In this way they want to built up a reserve of labour to confront the oncoming strike with.

Villalobos also called on the workers not to fall for the temptation of a strike or of demonstrations who “would worsen the financial situation of the company”. The official word from the Chavez party and the bureaucracy is that they do not want any strikes, demonstrations or other forms of workers struggle in the run up to the presidential elections in December. It is by the way one of the reasons quoted by the majority of the UNT leadership not to have immediate leadership elections for the trade union.

So far the reaction of the trade union leadership has been very weak. The president of Fetraelec, Angel Navas, commented that the proposal by the company will not be well received amongst the workers. It is the least one could say when a vice president of a supposedly “Socialist” government openly calls to organise scab labour and break a workers strikes. Maybe we have to take into account that Angel Navas combines his job as president of the trade union with a more important responsabilty as an elected MP for the MVR, the main Chavez party.

It is urgent for the working class and its organisations to denounce the organisation of scab labour and to support the struggle of the Cadafe workers. The workers movement need to organise independently in defence of its class interests, demand the nationalisation of the electricity companies under workers control and management and use its force in the struggle for genuine socialism.

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