Photo: El Nacional retrieved

“I’ve worked here all of my life, I came when I was in college, I was really young. I started as a secretary and earned more and more responsibilities.”

Paula sighs when thinking of the past: “Now all that time and effort don’t mean anything.”

It’s been more than a month since the government started its so-called “Program of Recovery, Growth and Economic Prosperity,” but it’s obvious that it’s not having the desired results for the population, and one of the sectors hit after the “red package” is that of public servants.

Recent days have seen a spike in protests in various companies and government institutions all over the country. Motivated by the great dissatisfaction with the latest adjustment of salaries for public administration (and the threat hanging over 500 collective bargaining agreements, according to estimates made by Froilán Barrios, leader of Movimiento Laboralista), workers from different sectors have voiced their complaints in the only way they know how.

Recent days have seen a spike in protests in various companies and government institutions all over the country.

The program, designed by President Nicolás Maduro himself (or so he claims), established a minimum wage of Bs.S. 1,800 (Bs.F. 180,000,000), which the government will pay to all workers through the carnet de la patria for three months, while their actual employers will cover the difference of each salary for each employee.

But in the country with the highest inflation in the world, the new wages’ purchasing power collapsed in weeks. According to estimates by the Center for the Dissemination of Economic Knowledge (Cedice Libertad, one of the country’s most influential think tanks), “by September 30, the average consumption of 61 goods and services of a three-member family was Bs.S. 20,102.79 (Bs.F. 2,010,279,000)”, in other words, at least 11 minimum wages.

In this regard, Steve Hanke, professor at Johns Hopkins University and expert in hyperinflationary processes, has pointed out that the bolívar soberano has lost half of its value in merely 19 days.

Paula, for example, works at CANTV and, since the Madurazo, she earns the minimum announced and not a crumb more. Everyone at her office is in the same situation: “It makes no sense that someone who’s just starting at the company gets the same as someone with 15 years here. Now the janitor, the manager, the secretary, everyone earns same. Nonsense.”

“I can’t complain to my bosses, because they’re screwed, too.”

Luis works at Electricidad de Caracas, the power company for the capital. “When I got here, it was a private venture,” he says. “The job was a great opportunity, pay was good and you had chances to grow.”

Since the company went public, a lot of things have changed: “At first, we all got the minimum wage, now we get some weird bonuses. Actually, we don’t know what we’re getting for payment, or why.”

At first, we all got the minimum wage, now we get some weird bonuses. Actually, we don’t know what we’re getting for payment, or why.

“What happens is that you rather have fewer responsibilities, because the difference in wages is minimal,” he says. “It affects the whole company. I’m a professional, with courses abroad, why do I have to earn the same as a new worker?”

In view of such a volatile and uncertain panorama, Petróleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), Corporación Eléctrica Nacional (Corpoelec), Compañía Anónima Teléfonos de Venezuela (CANTV) and Siderúrgica del Orinoco “Alfredo Maneiro” (Sidor), are only a few of the companies where workers have dared to publicly show their dissatisfaction.

According to studies made by the Venezuelan Observatory of Social Conflict (OVCS), there were 894 protests in August 2018 alone, which represents a 20% increase compared to the same month, last year. The OCVS reports 347 protests for labor rights, led by workers from the healthcare, university, electric, telecommunications and transport sectors, who also reject the economic measures implemented by the Executive Branch.

However, the lack of empathy within some pseudo-management areas in the revolution has caused both discontent and authentic expressions of outrage, which have gone viral on social networks, as is the case of PDVSA Monagas’ director, José Delgado, who demanded the already impoverished employees of the State-run company to have “revolutionary strength.” You can see how the employees reacted to such nonsense:

In Guayana, there are daily protests now, and they include vehicles in flames and roadblocks from Puerto Ordaz to the state’s capital, Ciudad Bolívar, just like the guarimbas they claim to have fought against in the past.

In the words of Iván Freites, head of the United Federation of Oil Workers of Venezuela (Futpv), the imposition of a minimum wage beyond what was discussed in the agreements “violates the National Constitution and the Framework Law on Labor which is the basis for collective bargaining agreements.”

The demands are essentially the same: respect the figure of collective bargaining agreements. Paradoxically, a government that claims to be “for workers,” is now threatening the rights conquered through decades of union movements in the country, achieved under more understanding administrations.

Orwellian and very chavista, folks.

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