Venezuela: 40,000 Oil Workers Go On Strike Friday : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

[Excerpt: "In 24 hours there'll be no gasoline left for airplanes and cars in the capital Caracas.."]

Venezuela is the world's 3rd largest oil exporter.

CARACAS, March 3 (Reuters) - Venezuelan oil workers went on an indefinite national strike Friday in protest against the government's refusal to resume talks on a new collective labor agreement, and union leaders said the compliance was massive.

State oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA), which has pledged to guarantee supply of its 2.72 million barrels per day through well-rehearsed contingency plans, reported for its part normal operations in the world's third largest oil exporter.

``More than 90 percent of workers have heeded the strike call across the country,'' said Carlos Ortega, head of Fedepetrol, the key industry's main union which claims to represent about half of the country's 40,000 oil workers.

PDVSA, while providing no figures, said the oil industry was not paralyzed. ``The morning shift started normally. We can guarantee supplies and the contingency plan is working,'' a PDVSA spokesman said of the strike which began at dawn.

PDVSA officials have argued the stoppage was politically motivated, an assessment Ortega shared. ``The problem here is a political one and requires a political solution,'' he told the Televen television network.

The strike was the worst labor conflict since President Hugo Chavez, a left-leaning nationalist, took office a year ago on promises to clean up government.


Both PDVSA President Hector Ciavaldini and Chavez have lashed out at oil union bosses branding them as representatives of ``corrupt cliques'' and ``mafias'' tied to a discredited opposition Chavez crushed at the polls in December 1998.

Ciavaldini said Thursday that by declining to sign an agreement on a new collective labor agreement, PDVSA was simply abiding by a government decree to freeze the talks until all unions hold internal elections in compliance with a new constitution approved in a referendum last December.

The new charter says union leaders must be elected by direct, universal and secret vote. They are currently hand picked by regional union bosses, a practice government officials say has fuelled cronyism and corruption.

The previous two-year collective contract expired last November. PDVSA wants to introduce a new system of severance payments that would make it cheaper for employers to dismiss workers. Unions insist on a retroactive system of payments.

Ciavaldini called the strike illegal because unions had failed to file at the Labor Ministry a required strike notification at least 120 hours before going ahead with the stoppage and that strikers could face dismissal.

Fedepetrol regularly uses the threat of a strike in its dealings with the government. In recent years, both sides had usually conceded ground before threatened strikes occurred.

Industry experts say that even in the case of a strike going ahead with strong compliance by union members, the Venezuelan oil industry can continue vital functions for about 10 days before production is hit, using non-unionized staff.

But Ortega disagreed. ``In 24 hours there'll be no gasoline left for airplanes and cars in the capital Caracas,'' he said.

-- Antoine Neron (, March 03, 2000


Response to 40,000 Oil Workers Go On Strike Friday

More info at

-- Antoine Neron (, March 03, 2000.

Response to 40,000 Oil Workers Go On Strike Friday

Important excerpt from the last article location above:

"Petroleos de Venezuela put itself on a ``blue alert,'' the same type of alert it used in preparation for the Y2K computer concerns on Jan. 1. Company officials said the Venezuelan armed forces would be on hand to protect Petroleos de Venezuela installations from possible disturbances by workers"

-- Antoine Neron (, March 03, 2000.

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