Workplace Absenteeism Takes Over PDVSA Gas Anaco

Oil industry workers in Anaco don’t show up to work anymore. Why risk life and limb for salaries that just won’t put food on the table anymore?

Original art by @modográfico

Write this one down: in the coming months, oil and gas production in PDVSA Gas Anaco will abruptly drop. Why? Because nobody wants to run a drilling rig when hungry.

The industry is still reeling from the military takeover of PDVSA. The purchasing power of wages has collapsed. Here, in Anaco, the large PDVSA Gas facility has been been hit hard by it all.  

And so, a large number of employees have grabbed their suitcases and left the country.

César Castro is a gas technician. He’s been working for PDVSA Gas Anaco since 2006. Frustrated by the terrible wages, he decided to go to Peru, where he’s now working in a fast-food restaurant.

It’s not fair that the company’s income is in dollars and we’re paid in bolivars that constantly depreciate.

César says that during his 7 x 7 watches  (seven consecutive work days and then seven free days) he had to jump through all sorts of hoops to eat well: borrow money, sell appliances, wire and parts. He didn’t formally resign: “One day I decided not to keep wasting my time there. I gathered the money I could and set off for Lima. If I had stayed on at the drilling rig, I’d have starved to death. Many of us are left waiting for a severance pay packet that’s not enough to live on.”

Clause 20 of the Oil-Sector Collective Bargaining Agreement for 2015-2017 guarantees food will be supplied to workers working on drilling, production, wallcover and flyway. Another broken promise.

PDVSA hires companies meant to cater food to employees. Most of the time, the food is already spoiled when it arrives. Other times, portions are far too small. Everyone we interviewed for this piece, some of them only accepted if they could remain anonymous, said that sometimes they bring their food to work, some days there’s nothing to eat there and they bring that lunchbox back home to share with their families.

Employees feel trapped. Without alternative ways to produce income, forced by the circumstances to work for Bs.200,000 a week.

Crime wave

In addition to the poor workplace conditions, the staff on the night shift at the drills is vulnerable to constant robberies.According to employees (who, again, asked to remain anonymous) management won’t adequately protect the facilities. There have even been robberies where State personnel has been involved.

In several opportunities, they’ve expressed their dissatisfaction by shutting down the scarcely operational drill for 8 hours, but they’re immediately threatened with prison. The employees demand Will Rangel, head of the Unitary Federation of Venezuelan Oil Workers (FUTPV) and ANC member, to set more favorable clauses in the next Oil Collective Bargaining Agreement (expired on October 1, 2017) with real benefits. There hasn’t been a word about the contract.

“It’s not fair that the company’s income is in dollars and we’re paid in bolivars that constantly depreciate,” said Carlos Uzcátegui, a worker on the PDV 51 drill, in the Anaco-San Mateo road. “Foreign contractors such as CNPC pay bonuses in dollars to their employees.”

In view of the absence of solutions, oil workers protested in Anaco during the first week of January, covered up by the tight filter of PDVSA information. There’s only one active news outlet in Anaco, La Noticia de Oriente, and it doesn’t cover the tension and conflict within the oil company.

Plummeting production

The situation is getting worse and it could become a massive exodus of qualified personnel in the Venezuelan Oil Industry in the coming months. Currently, the drills PDV 21, PDV 145, PDV 146, PDV 03, PDV 116 and PDV 64 are inactive, according to employees, due to lack of equipment and of raw materials.

It’s important to ponder about the future of what used to be one of the main oil producing companies in the world, looted in the last years of socialist administration, but with much to give to the country still.

There are 26 billion cubic feet in total gas reserves in Venezuela’s Eastern area alone. Less than 50% of that wealth is developed.

However, corruption reached its climax and now it’s employees themselves who face the apocalyptic consequences. Not so long ago, working in PDVSA meant prestige; now employees have to be creative to bring food to their homes.