Venezuela: Solidarity with workers at SIDOR steel plant

Defend the right to strike and protest

Following a protest in defence of workers’ rights in Puerto Ordaz, in the Bolivar state on 5 September 2006, a group of 14 workers are now facing judicial prosecution. These workers and union leaders will appear before the courts on 29 July to hear if they have been found guilty or not. The “crime” these workers committed was to give support to the struggle of part time workers employed by a contractor providing transport services, Transporte Camilla, for the metal industry, including the recently nationalised SIDOR steel company.

These workers had demanded that the conditions laid down under the Norms of Hygiene and Safety at work law be applied. Their demand was agreed to by SUTISS, one of the largest trade unions in the metal industry.

These workers were arrested and then subjected to prosecution, including the union leaders Leonel Grisett Juan Valor and Jhoel Hernández along with twelve other workers. If they are found guilty, they could be imprisoned for between five and ten years for “preventing, interrupting and restricting the freedom to work”. This arises from recent legal reforms introduced in 2005 to the Venezuelan Penal Code, specifically articles 358 and 359, which clearly limit and penalise the right to strike and organise protests.

This case, which is now being brought before the courts, is one of a series that have been enacted in recent years but they have met a wall of silence from the press and media – both private and public. In reality these legal measures are effectively criminalising the right to social protests being organised by workers and the poor.

Socialismo Revolucionario and the CWI have defended all of the positive reforms carried through by the Chávez regime and opposed the threat to the government by right-wing counterrevolutionary forces. However, the SR and CWI also fight for the independent democratic organisation of the working class. We support those workers in struggle to defend their rights and oppose bureaucratic and administrative repression and attacks on workers by the state from above in an attempt to prevent and oppose the independent organisation and mobilisation of workers.

We demand that the government allows full liberty of expression and right of the workers to fight to defend their interests, and that it drops all charges against those for participating in protests to defend their elementary democratic rights.

We appeal to all trade unions, social workers organisations and revolutionary socialists to oppose these repressive measures being taken by the state and international capitalism.

  • No more repression or criminalisation of social protest by the workers and the people.
  • No to immunity for the para-military forces and parallel police organisations that threaten our districts and social leaders.
  • No to corruption and bureaucracy and no to capitalism and repression.
  • For Workers’ Democracy and Socialism.

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July 2009