Speech by Pedro Eusse, Secretary General of the Unitary Workers Central of Venezuela to the Presidential Council of World Federation of Trade Unions (WFTU)

Cyprus, March 3 and 4, 2023


Comrades of the Presidential Council of our World Trade Union Federation, please receive our warmest, class-conscious, greetings on behalf of the Central Unitary Workers of Venezuela and the National Front for the Struggle of the Working Class.

At the present time, it is apparent that, in an aggressive manner, the pretensions of the ruling classes are aimed at destroying the rights of active workers and retirees and to subjugate the people so that they do not rise-up and endanger the existence of the bourgeois order, whose profound decomposition threatens the very existence of life on the planet.

In Venezuela, the reality of a dependent capitalism and a model of accumulation based on oil rents were not overcome in the period of the Bolivarian progressive process that began under President Chávez and the 1999 Constituent Assembly, with important advances in social and labor rights. Now, with the government of President Maduro, this has been degraded to a regressive and reactionary process, even if it is being manipulated with a pseudo-revolutionary rhetoric that has no correspondence with the public policies that are being implemented, nor with the conduct and style of life of the high state bureaucracy.

Certainly, our nation has been vilely attacked by the criminal, unilateral coercive measures imposed by the U.S. and the European Union, particularly since 2017 when such unlawful measures were applied against Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), causing profound damage to the national economy. However, it is necessary to highlight that the national crisis, is of a structural nature, and did not originate with the imperialist “sanctions”, but rather is determined by dependency and by the parasitic forms of bourgeois appropriation of the profits of the oil and mining industries.

The Venezuelan oil industry, and with it the entire national economy, collapsed because of its lack of capitalization to be used as a means for private enrichment by various means, then the imperialist sanctions ended up aggravating the situation in the extreme. The hypocrisy and cynicism of a government that demands sacrifices from the working people is evident when it refuses to report that, despite oil revenues and economic difficulties, it spent $109 billion in
dollars for payment of foreign debt, from 2013 to 2017.

In addition, the National Government supplies foreign currency, that belongs to the State, to the oligarchic and corporate mafias with the excuse of supposedly stabilizing the national currency which is devalued on a daily basis, and last year it offered more than 5 billion dollars to the private sector and, so far this year, the same trend continues.

However, it is clear that there is no money to improve wages or social security, or to improve or strengthen state-owned enterprises, which are being secretly privatized.

President Maduro’s government in reality has opted for policies of a neoliberal nature, with the purpose of attracting and maintaining private investments presenting as the main competitive advantage, a labor force with the worst wages on the continent and perhaps in the world; the minimum wage in Venezuela, as well as its pensions, is around $5 per month, in the midst of relentless inflation that has been spurred by the liberalization of prices and profits established in August 2018, in the context of a de facto dollarization in the domestic economy. Under these conditions, our retirees and pensioners are, in practice, subjected to a policy of extermination with a miserable pension, without access to adequate food, medicine, and health care.

Additionally, under the rationale of the blockade, there is the advance of a high level of labor deregulation that has led to the dismantling of collective bargaining agreements, freedom of association, and the right to strike. The employers are committing labor law violations to carry out mass layoffs and are cancelling collective bargaining agreements, with the open or covert complicity of the authorities. Trying to access the highest courts of law to overturn decisions
that suppress labor rights is of no use to us; all the public powers are subordinated to the National Executive and its neoliberal policies. In Venezuela there is no rule of law for the working class.

Referring to the foregoing, the antidemocratic and authoritarian character of the ruling elite is more apparent as in the last 10 years there has been an underhanded criminalization of workers who fight for the rights to denounce administrative corruption, with an estimated 133 workers being unjustly prosecuted, although this is a conservative figure because many cases are not known.

This whole situation has led to the fact that since January 9, teachers and professors of elementary and secondary education, in addition to university and health care workers, among others, have staged large demonstrations throughout the national territory, demanding decent wages through the signing of the collective bargaining agreements, where the government has paralyzed the negotiations with the approval of the trade union management. There have also been militant and legitimate protests by the workers in the steel industry, the electricity sector, and private companies, among others.

It should be noted that the restrictions on trade union freedoms, are particularly aimed at preventing the strengthening of class-based trade unionism in Venezuela; thus, the Ministry of Labor has denied registration to numerous union projects presented or promoted by the CUTV, while recently it legalized a non-class-based trade union center affiliated to the CSA-CSI [Confederación Sindical de Trabajadores/as de las Américas].

The process of wage containment and destruction is now taking place in the elite and exclusionary spaces of the tripartite dialogue promoted by the ILO, where the representation of private employers, with the complicity of the decentralized pro-capitalist trade unions, advances its proposals to cut salaries instead paying with bonuses thereby reducing costs and maximizing profits, by reducing or eliminating compensation for social benefits and other legal concepts. The government is helping to do this by preventing the participation of the trade union confederations in these discussions who oppose these pretensions.

In the face of all this, where the Government is making an agreement with the private sector and with the leadership of a number of right-wing parties in order to place on the working class all the burden of the crisis and the imperialist sanctions, we have opted to push for a line of broad unity of action, based in the trade unions, to fight to win wages and pensions that are indexed to the prices of basic foodstuffs, for the restoration of rights that have been violated, for full freedom for workers deprived of their liberty and for the defeat of the liberal adjustment and imperialist aggressions, accumulating forces until a solution is possible to the crisis in favor of the working class and all the working people of the city and the countryside.

No matter who governs, the rights are defended!

Long live proletarian internationalism!  Long live the WFTU!