“It used to be simple,” my friend Armando is telling me. “I used to be able to play around with the shifts depending on the changes in demand. Sometimes, when I had the pizzeria, there were two good days followed by three bad days. Knowing those were coming, I could ask my guys to either stay home or do double shifts. Now … I can’t do that anymore.”
Armando is showing me his new restaurant. It’s pretty small compared to the pizzeria he used to own. In the other one, he had a partner with deep pockets, an old friend from school who turned out to be a coke addict and, ultimately, a most unreliable partner. Now, he’s trying his luck on his own. You can smell the fresh paint on the walls. I wonder how he put the place together in the middle of Guarimba-geddon.
It’s late on a Monday afternoon in Maracaibo, and Armando won’t be opening today. After he tells me about the shifts, I give him a quizzed look.
“The Labor Law, man. Every worker gets two consecutive days of rest per week. They have to be consecutive, no ifs, ands, or buts. When you own a small restaurant like myself, those are enormous costs. I can’t hire more waiters, and I certainly can’t fire them. It’s a nightmare.”
I ask him what he’s doing about it.
“I ask my guys to come to work and rest on non-consecutive days. But in order to do that, I have to pay them under the counter, because they know that what I’m doing is illegal. But it’s the only way. The worst part is that, if they get pissed at me, they could report me and I could end up in jail.”
The Organic Labor Law for Workers and Workerettes is a massive piece of legislation, one of the last “gifts” Hugo Chávez bestowed our long-suffering Republic. Back in May of 2012, in the heat of the populist orgy we like to call “the election of 2012,” Chávez signed into law a back-breaking, business-busting, nuts-cracking tour de force.
The actual effects of the implementation of the new Labor Law are one of the least reported pieces of the chavista puzzle of horror. It’s a shame, because its effects appear to be hugely important.
The restrictions it places on businesses are enormous. For example, workers are basically free to not report to work, and you can’t do anything about it. Thanks to the law, severance payments went through the stratosphere. And then there is the little tidbit about the consecutive shifts which, in a business such as Armando’s small restaurant, can be the death knell.
Now, I was going to do some digging and start writing a long, detailed post on the Labor Law, but chances are I’ll get it wrong.
So instead, I think we should use the unique features of the blog’s comment section and wiki the hell out of this thing. So, tell me: what are the worst aspects of the Labor Law? Are there any good things about it? And, in your personal experience, what has been the most frustrating?
Feel free to shoot off in the comments section. After we’re done, I’ll compile the most vivid experiences and put them together. Oh, and do include links if you can.Caracas Chronicles is 100% reader-supported. Support independent Venezuelan journalism by making a donation.