miércoles, febrero 16, 2005
CTV files complaint with the International Labor Organization against the UNT
OWC CAMPAIGN NEWS - distributed by the Open World Conference in
Defense of Trade Union Independence & Democratic Rights, c/o S.F. Labor
Council, San Francisco, CA.
In This Message:
- Presentation -- by Alan Benjamin, Co-Coordinator of the OWC
- Joint Communiqué Issued by the International Liaison Committee of
Workers and Peoples (ILC) and the National Union of Workers of
Venezuela (UNT) -- Caracas, Venezuela, February 3, 2005
- Open Letter to the Workers' Group of the ILO -- issued by the
national coordinators of the UNT
- Endorsement Coupon of the Open Letter to the Workers' Group of the ILO
- Memorandum on the Employer Offensive Against Venezuela Within the
ILO -- prepared by the national coordinators of the UNT
- The Truth About Trade Union Freedoms in Venezuela -- major excerpts
from a pamphlet produced in June 2004 by the national coordinators of
the National Union of Workers of Venezuela (UNT)
- Joint ILC-UNT Declaration of December 10, 2004
Dear Sisters and Brothers:
The Bush administration is at again, building its case to prepare one
more time the overthrow of the democratically elected government of
Last November, the New York Times revealed that the Bush
administration and the CIA had advance knowledge of the military coup
that removed President Hugo Chavez from office for 48 hours on April
11-12, 2002. Top secret documents obtained by the Times show that in
the weeks prior to the coup against Chavez, the CIA had full
knowledge of the events to occur and, in fact, even had the detailed
plans in their possession.
Of course, it was an open secret that the coup plotters -- beginning
with FEDECAMARAS, the association of Venezuelan employers, and the
Confederation of Venezuelan Workers (CTV) -- had received substantial
funds from the U.S. State Department, via the National Endowment for
Democracy (NED), to launch this unsavory operation in conjunction
with a wing of the military brass all too willing to be bought off by
the U.S. paymasters. The failed military coup was vintage "Made in
Today, a new and major threat is being directed at the Venezuelan
government and at the genuine trade union movement of that country by
the very same forces that came together to organize the attempted
coup in April 2002 and, later, the lockout/work stoppage in the oil
industry. It is a threat that can and must be stopped by the
international labor movement.
This coming March, the Governing Body of the International Labor
Organization (ILO) in Geneva will hear an Article 26 Complaint filed
by FEDECAMARAS and the CTV union federation against the Venezuelan
government for supposed "violations of trade union freedoms." The
Complaint has been endorsed by the Bush administration and by
employers' associations in 23 countries, including the U.S. Chamber
of Commerce. If the Complaint is supported by the ILO Governing Body
in March, it is then forwarded to the International Labor Conference
of the ILO next June for concurrence and immediate action.
While the charges contained in the ILO Compliant against Venezuela
are frivolous and unfounded, the Venezuelan government and the newly
formed National Union of Workers of Venezuela (UNT) are taking them
extremely seriously. They understand that these charges, should they
be endorsed by the ILO, are a key component of the Bush
administration's attempt to isolate Venezuela and prepare possible
international sanctions against their country for alleged "violations
of trade union freedoms."
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and U.S. Ambassador to Venezuela
William Brownfield are already getting their ducks lined up for this
shady venture. They are pushing strongly, for example, to have the
former president of El Salvador, Francisco Flores, take over the post
of General Secretary of the Organization of American States in the
coming weeks. Flores publicly supported the April 11, 2002 coup
against Chavez. In recent days he has denounced the Venezuelan
government for allegedly supporting "international terrorism." He has
stated that Chavez is a "dictator that must be removed from office."
(source: Diario de la Economía, Caracas, February 4, 2005)
In her Senate confirmation hearings, Rice made numerous references to
President Chavez, at one point calling him a "negative force in the
region." In a not-so-subtle quote in the February 10 issue of
Washington Times, an unnamed "senior U.S. official" claimed that
Chavez is "consolidating a dictatorship. It's a Cuban-style
dictatorship. He's arming loyalists and setting them lose to
intimidate people at the city block level."
Less recognized, but perhaps more sinister, was something that
occurred four days prior to the Rice hearings. On January 14, three
major newspapers ran reports on Venezuela -- on the same day and with
the same premise -- arguing that the State Department needed to step
up its activities in Venezuela "because Chavez was tightening his
Iron Grip" on the Venezuelan people.
On February 3, Venezuelan Labor Minister María Cristina Iglesias told
a visiting delegation from the International Liaison Committee of
Workers and Peoples (ILC) that in her view, the U.S. State Department
and its cronies in Venezuela are out to "crucify" the Venezuelan
government at the upcoming meetings of the ILO. She called on all
supporters of labor and democratic rights to reject the accusations
against the Venezuelan government contained in the ILO Complaint.
This same view was expressed by the national coordinators of the UNT,
who, accordingly, have issued an "Open Letter to the ILO Workers'
Group" urging them to reject the ILO Complaint.
The International Liaison Committee (ILC) and the Continuations
Committee of the Open World Conference (OWC) fully support this
international campaign initiated by the UNT. We believe it is
possible to generate sufficient pressure within the labor movements
around the world to compel the union representatives in the ILO
Workers' Group to reject the FEDECAMARAS-CTV Complaint.
We call upon all trade unionists -- particularly in the United
States, where we have a major responsibility to turn around the
stance by the national AFL-CIO leadership -- to endorse and help us
promote for wider endorsement the "Open Letter to the Workers' Group
of the ILO" that has been issued by the national coordinators of the
To assist you in this effort, we have prepared a full dossier with
all the background information you will need to understand -- and to
expose -- the many accusations contained in the U.S.-backed Complaint
in the ILO.
Please send us your endorsement of this Open Letter. Please forward
this message to your lists and print out copies for endorsement by
your unions. And please send us a much-needed financial contribution
to help us ensure the success of this campaign.
We have only a few months to force the rejection by the ILO of these
unfounded charges -- but with your help we know we can succeed, as we
have succeeded with so many of our other international labor
We thank you in advance for your support for this important effort in
defense of Venezuela's sovereignty and in defense of genuine trade
unionism in Venezuela.
OWC Continuations Committee
Joint Communiqué Issued by the International Liaison Committee of
Workers and Peoples (ILC) and the National Union of Workers of
(Caracas, Venezuela -- February 3, 2005)
A delegation from the International Liaison Committee of Workers and
Peoples (ILC) met with the national coordinators of the National
Union of Workers of Venezuela (UNT) on February 3 in Caracas.
The coordinators of the UNT explained the international campaign they
have launched with the "Open Letter to the Workers' Group of the
International Labor Organization (ILO)." In this Open Letter they
urge the ILO Workers' Group to reject the unfounded Complaints
against the Venezuelan government lodged by FEDECAMARAS, the
employers' association of Venezuela, alleging violations of trade
The ILC delegation indicated its full agreement with this campaign
and declared its willingness to promote this campaign widely at all
levels of the international labor movement in the months leading up
to the International Labor Conference of the ILO, which will take
place in Geneva in June 2005.
The coordinators of the UNT explained they soon will be convening a
National Congress of the UNT, as mandated by their bylaws. The
representatives of the UNT and the ILC decided to jointly convene an
"International Meeting In Defense of the Sovereignty of Venezuela and
In Defense of the UNT" at the conclusion of the UNT Congress. This
International Meeting is being called on the basis of the joint
ILC-UNT declaration of December 10, 2004. [See statement below.]
The coordinators of the UNT invite the representatives of labor
organizations from around the world to this international meeting so
that they can learn first hand about the real situation of trade
union freedoms in Venezuela and so that they can help advance the
struggle to defend the sovereignty of Venezuela and the very
existence of the UNT.
- For the ILC Delegation: Daniel Gluckstein (coordinator), Alan
Benjamin (USA) and Julio Turra (Brazil)
- For the National Coordinators of the UNT: Orlando Chirino, Marcela
Maspero, Stalin Perez Borges and Ruben Linares.
Open Letter to the ILO Workers' Group
We, the undersigned leaders of the National Union of Workers of
Venezuela (UNT), issue this appeal to the trade unions around the
world that are represented in the Workers' Group of the International
Labor Organization (ILO), as well as to all our sisters and brothers
who are championing the trade union battles in defense of workers'
Dear Sisters and Brothers:
We in Venezuela have been been part of the effort by the working
class to create a trade union federation that is built from the
bottom up by the rank and file and that is rooted in the principles
of class independence, trade union democracy and full autonomy in
relation to the State and all political parties. This effort -- which
in April 2003 brought unionists from different sectors and trade
union currents together to create the UNT -- is part and parcel of
the struggle of our people in defense of their national sovereignty.
Today, the UNT represents the majority of the organized workforce in
Venezuela. Its creation in 2003 has given a huge impetus to the drive
to organize trade unions across our country. The rate of trade union
affiliation has increased from 11% in 2001 to 23% in 2004. The UNT
also has been present in the last two International Labor Conferences
of the ILO in June 2003 and June 2004.
But these recent years also have seen FEDECAMARAS, the employers'
association of Venezuela, join forces with the Confederation of
Venezuelan Workers (CTV) to present a Complaint to the ILO's
Committee on Freedom of Association alleging that the Venezuelan
government has violated Trade Union Freedoms and the Right to Strike.
The joint Complaint by FEDECAMARAS and the CTV is highly unusual, as
trade unions are generally the ones filing ILO Complaints against the
employers and seeking support from the ILO Workers' Group against all
violations of trade union rights, including the right to strike. It
is unprecedented, as well, on account of the convergence of interests
between FEDECAMARAS and the CTV.
Such a Complaint can be understood only in the context of the
unfolding political situation in Venezuela, in which FEDECAMARAS and
the top leadership of the CTV participated directly in the attempted
military coup of April 2002, together with the opposition political
parties and with the encouragement of the U.S. Embassy. The coup --
which established a "government" headed by Pedro Carmona, then
president of FEDECAMARAS -- was foiled after just two days by the
mass mobilizations of the Venezuelan workers and people.
Later, in December 2002 and January 2003, FEDECAMARAS -- together
with the same leaders of the CTV -- organized an employer
lockout/work stoppage that was political in nature and that sought to
bring down the government through the sabotage of the country's main
source of income: the oil industry. In both the attempted coup and
the bosses' lockout/work stoppage, the CTV leadership took actions
that were repudiated by the overwhelming majority of the workers of
Venezuela. At no time, in fact, were the workers consulted by the CTV
leadership about the work stoppage in the oil industry. Quite the
contrary, upon learning of this action by the CTV leadership, the
workers mobilized massively to occupy the oil rigs and refineries to
ensure the resumption of oil production.
These undeniable facts were reported in detail by 35 leaders of the
UNT to the Contact Mission of the ILO that traveled to Venezuela in
It is not new, nor is it unexpected, that employers should resort to
lockouts against the workers to promote their interests. Many of you
undoubtedly have witnessed such bosses' lockouts in your countries.
It is less frequent for the employers to resort to military coups,
but, alas, such actions are not unprecedented. But isn't it an insult
to our intelligence to try to have us believe that employer lockouts
and military coups can somehow be aimed at defending democracy and
trade union rights? Do they think we're fools who cannot see through
In June 2004, FEDECAMARAS -- with the full support of the
International Organization of Employers (IOE) and representatives
from bosses' organizations in 22 countries, including the United
States, all of them notorious for their anti-union activities --
invoked Article 26 of the ILO Constitution and proposed that a
Commission of Inquiry be established in relation to alleged
violations of Trade Union Freedoms in Venezuela.
The March 8-24, 2005 meeting of the Governing Body of the ILO is
scheduled to take a vote on this request by FEDECAMARAS. It is worth
noting that while this baseless Complaint against the Venezuelan
government moves through the ILO system, the government of Colombia
has not been subjected to any sanctions or pressures by the ILO --
even when the ILO itself registered at the beginning of 2004 that 186
trade unionists had been assassinated for their union activity in
that country, a number that now surpasses the 200 mark.
Dear Sisters and Brothers:
The Venezuelan government today has wide popular support to advance
its Agrarian Reform program and, with the aim of guaranteeing jobs
and wages, to take over factories abandoned or bankrupted by their
employers. Yet at this very moment, incidents are being staged to
create a diplomatic conflict between Venezuela and Colombia. More
ominous still, U.S. President George W. Bush and Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice have issued public warnings against the alleged
"negative" and "destabilizing" role of Venezuela in the region.
Anyone familiar with the international policies implemented by the
Bush administration in the recent period can understand full well
that these are not simply words; they are a direct threat to
Venezuela. Bush and Rice invoke the concept of "democracy" -- but if
one looks at what is going on in Iraq today, one can see what they
mean by "democracy."
Is it possible not to see a link between these political developments
and the stance taken by FEDECAMARAS at the ILO?
Regardless of what one's opinions may be about the Venezuelan
government and its policies, it's a fact that it's a government that
received the support of more than 60% of the people in the August 15,
2004 recall referendum, thereby dealing a blow to the effort by
FEDECAMARAS and the top officials of the CTV to oust the Chávez
government. The election results were ratified, in fact, by the
Organization of American States (OAS) and the Carter Center, two
bodies that cannot be accused of harboring any sympathies for the
It is also an undeniable fact that the partisans of the current
Venezuelan government obtained the overwhelming support of the people
in the state and regional elections held in October 2004.
From our vantage point as the UNT, genuine democracy means respecting
the sovereign will of people to determine their own fate. And we wish
to reiterate this point: Venezuela's right to self-determination must
be respected and upheld independent of whatever one may think about
the current government of Venezuela. It is not up to the U.S.
government to decide in the place of the Venezuelan people what is
"positive" or "negative" for Venezuela.
It is totally understandable that the representatives of the
employers in the ILO should form a common front with FEDECAMARAS in
support of this Complaint. Likewise, it is not surprising that
governments, particularly that of Bush in the United States, should
follow suit. But in no way can the representatives of the workers'
organizations in the ILO support this attack upon our sovereignty and
our independent trade union organizations.
Is it not obvious that allowing the Commission of Inquiry to be
approved -- as FEDECAMARAS demands -- would, in fact, be tantamount
to trampling upon our trade union freedoms and the very sovereignty
of our country? Only we, the workers of Venezuela, can and must
decide what kind of trade union organizations we should build, in the
framework of the principles of Trade Union Freedom.
We issue this urgent appeal to all trade union organizations the
world over. We call upon one and all to reject the proposal by
FEDECAMARAS and its cohorts to sanction Venezuela and to conduct an
ILO Commission of Inquiry. Such an action is not called for, nor does
it correspond to the real situation of trade union freedoms in
Venezuela, which is a country that has ratified ILO Conventions 87
For our part, as trade union officers who are committed to the rank
and file,we have nothing to hide. That is why we are appending to
this Open Letter a Memorandum that responds to the specific charges
contained in the Complaint filed by FEDECAMARAS and the CTV.
We invite trade unions from all around the world to come to Venezuela
to see for yourselves the reality of our country, where even the CTV
-- which participated directly in the attempted coup of April 2002
and the lockout/work stoppage of December 2002-January 2003, enjoys
full trade union freedoms.
We also invite representatives of the international trade union
movement to attend the upcoming National Congress of the UNT. This
will permit you to learn firsthand from the workers about the real
situation of the trade unions in Venezuela.
To conclude, we call upon all trade union organizations and officers
to reject the provocation by FEDECAMARAS and its allies to establish
an ILO Commission of Inquiry for Venezuela. We call upon you to add
your names in support of this Open Letter to the ILO Workers' Group.
- In defense of the sovereignty of the Venezuelan people!
- In defense of true Trade Union Freedoms!
signed by following National Coordinators of the UNT:
Orlando Chirino, Marcela Máspero, Stalin Pérez Borges and Rubén Linares
Endorsement Coupon of the Open Letter to the Workers' Group of the ILO
[ ] I have read the "Open Letter to the Workers' Group of the ILO"
issued by the national coordinators of the National Union of Workers
of Venezuela (UNT) on February 3, 2005. Please add my name as an
endorser of this Open Letter.
[ ] I will send a financial contribution of $ ___ payable to "OWC"
to OWC, c/o San Francisco Labor Council, 1188 Franklin St. #203, San
Francisco, CA 94109.
UNION/ORG & TITLE (list if for id. only)
(please fill out and return to
copies to Julio Turra, National Executive Director, CUT Federation,
MEMORANDUM On the Employer Offensive Against Venezuela Within the ILO
The National Union of Workers of Venezuela (UNT) -- which was present
at the 91st (2003) and 92nd (2004) sessions of the International
Labor Conference of the ILO -- wishes to convey to all trade
unionists around the world the main elements of the offensive waged
against Venezuela by FEDECAMARAS, the employers' association of
This Memorandum is an addendum to the "Open Letter to the Workers'
Group of the ILO" that we issued in Caracas on February 3, 2005.
Some Necessary Background
In 1999, Hugo Chavez assumed the reins of government in Venezuela
after winning the presidential election in 1998 by a substantial
margin. It was from this time on that FEDECAMARAS and the
Confederation of Venezuelan Workers (CTV) joined forces to lodge a
series of formal Complaints against the Chavez government before the
ILO's Committee on Freedom of Association and the ILO's Committee of
Experts on the Application of Conventions and Recommendations.
It is no secret that FEDECAMARAS and the leadership of the CTV
opposed from the very beginning the policies of the legitimately
elected government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela.
Nevertheless, things changed qualitatively in April 2002, when the
central leaders of both organizations participated directly in the
coup d'etat which, for 48 hours, established a "government" headed by
Pedro Carmona (then president of FEDECAMARAS), with two government
ministries consigned to leaders of the CTV.
Despite the explicit support of the U.S. government for the coup and
the participation of high-level officers of the Armed Forces in its
preparation and execution, the attempted coup failed because of the
overwhelming mobilization of the Venezuelan people, who demanded the
immediate return of Chavez as the president of the Republic.
Nine months later, between December 2002 and January 2003, the
managers and directors of PDVSA (the state oil company), with the
support of FEDECAMARAS and the CTV, decreed a work stoppage that was
in effect a sabotage of the country's main source of income. This
work stoppage in the oil industry was decided without any workers'
assembly having voted to carry it out.
It was the workers, once again, who combated the employer
lockout/work stoppage and who re-started production in the oil
industry and in the other sectors affected by the lockout. It was the
workers who, through their concerted actions in defense of
Venezuela's sovereignty, defeated this employer lockout. As a result
of the FEDECAMARAS-CTV lockout, many private companies closed their
doors. An estimated 250,000 people lost their jobs, with an equal
number forced to accept takebacks and concessions.
The UNT was constituted in April 2003 as a reaction by the
overwhelming majority of the trade union rank and file who opposed
the CTV's participation, alongside the bosses, in the attempted coup
and in the lockout./work stoppage of late 2002. Many trade unions and
federations that belonged to the CTV became founding members of the
new workers' confederation in Venezuela: the National Union of
Workers of Venezuela (UNT).
The Most Recent Complaints (No. 2249 and No. 2254)
After the failed coup d'etat in April 2002 and the year-end
sabotage/work stoppage, the CTV in February 2003 issued ILO Complaint
No. 2249 with the following allegations: murder of a trade unionist;
preventing the legal registration of a trade union; hostile
declarations by the authorities against the CTV; order of arrest
against the president of the CTV; promotion of a new labor
confederation by the authorities; obstacles in collective bargaining
in the public sector; orders of arrest and penal procedures against
trade union leaders; firing of over 18,000 workers for their trade
union activities; non-compliance with collective-bargaining
agreements; interference by the authorities and Petroleos de
Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA) and other anti-trade union acts; tardiness in
procedures for violation of trade union rights; negotiation with
minority organizations of public service employees, setting aside the
more representative unions; and actions by the authorities to divide
trade union organizations.
One month later, in March 2003, FEDECAMARAS and the International
Organization of Employers (IOE) lodged Complaint No. 2254, in which
they alleged the following: the exclusion of employers' organizations
from the country's decision-making process; interference of the
government aimed at promoting a new employer organization in the
agricultural sector; the detention of Carlos Fernández on February
19, 2003 in retaliation for his actions as president of FEDECAMARAS;
actions by violent paramilitary groups with government support;
actions against the installations of an employer's organization and
against protest actions by FEDECAMARAS; the creation of a hostile
environment for employers, by allowing the workers to take over and
occupy farms in full production; application of a decidedly
unilateral foreign exchange system by the authorities, thereby
discriminating against affiliates of FEDECAMARAS in relation for the
participation of FEDECAMARAS in the national 'civic work stoppages'."
We refer all trade unionists to the full text of these Complaints on
the ILO website so that you can draw your own conclusions.
- Concerning the discussions in the ILO Committee on Freedom of
Association, please visit the following pages on the ILO website:
- Concerning the discussions in the ILO Committee of Experts on the
Application of ILO Conventions and Recommendations, please go to:
We also invite you to read the Report we prepared for the ILO's
International Labor Conference in June 2004 titled "The Truth About
Trade Union Freedoms in Venezuela." [See below.]
We would like in this short space to make a few observations
regarding the latest Complaints presented by FEDECAMARAS and the CTV.
The first comment is that, putting aside their complementary nature,
both complaints by the CTV and FEDECAMARAS have carefully avoided
mentioning the fact that both organizations participated, along with
sectors of the oppositionist political parties and military brass, in
an attempted coup d'etat and later, an operation aimed at bringing
the national economy to its knees.
Hence, the allegations that the arrest orders for Carlos Ortega
(president of the CTV) and Carlos Fernandez (president of
FEDECAMARAS) are a violation of trade union freedoms are completely
false, since participation in a coup d'etat and later in a sabotage
operation against the oil industry has nothing to do with the labor
rights enshrined in ILO Conventions 87 and 98.
It is also completely false to suggest that the work
stoppage-sabotage of the oil industry of December 2002-January 2003
can be equated with a strike. No worker assembly at any time voted to
conduct this job action, nor was any prior strike notice given, as
established under the law. Those who were fired from their managerial
and security positions were fired simply because they abandoned their
jobs and responsibilities.
It is worth reprinting a communiqué of the oil workers' trade union
organizations -- FEDEPETROL, FETRAHIDROCARBUROS and SINUTRAPETROL --
regarding these events. It states, in part:
"We, the workers on the payroll, did not join or otherwise support
the lockout/work stoppage. We kept the plants operating and supplying
oil and gas to its customers -- which was a difficult task. We had to
take over the jobs held by management when they walked off their
jobs, without any legal or contractual obligation to act as we did.
" We, the workers on the payroll, had just signed a
collective-bargaining agreement with management in which we obtained
some important gains. In the face of the irresponsibility of our
supervisors, who walked off their jobs, the 30,000 wage-earners in
the oil industry took upon ourselves the patriotic duty to ensure
that our principal industry not succumb and that our people not be
engulfed in desperation and chaos, with unpredictable results we
would still be regretting today had we not succeeded in keeping our
industry up and running."
The so-called UNAPTEROL "trade union" -- one of the ILO Claimants,
along with the CTV and FEDECAMARAS -- was formed by managers and
heads of PDVSA to "represent the workers" in the collective
bargaining process in the industry, in the place of the three
aforementioned trade union organizations. UNAPETROL has not been
recognized by the government for a very simple reason: Its
composition (predominantly company managers and supervisors) runs
counter to the principle of "purety of representation" and counter to
ILO Convention 87 itself, which prohibits joint organizations of
workers' and bosses' representatives. That is why the authorities
responsible for registering trade unions in Venezuela did not
As for the "murder of a trade union leader" -- an accusation that
appears in Complaint No. 2249 -- the death was the result of a
private fight. Numar Ricardo Herrera, member of the Federation of
Construction Workers, was unfortunately murdered at the end of the
May 1 celebrations of the CTV a big distance from the place where the
demonstrators had gathered. Manuel Arias, after an argument with
Herrera, fired his gun and killed him. The killer was apprehended by
police authorities and is being tried for homicide. This was an
isolated event without any political connotations or violation of
trade union freedoms. The facts are there for all to see and examine.
The FEDECAMARAS Complaint includes the charge "of exclusion of
employer association from the decision-making process." This
accusation is completely bogus. In Venezuela, the legitimately
elected president was again ratified in office by the August 15, 2004
referendum. It is a government that is perfectly competent to make
decisions on its own.
Measures taken in defense of the poorest sectors of the population,
such as the recent Law on Land Use (January 10, 2005), constitute for
FEDECAMARAS and its junion partners the "creation of a hostile
environment for employers." The arrogance of the bosses reached its
height when they complained that "the application of foreign exchange
controls was decided unilaterally by the authorities." Venezuela is a
sovereign country and can take whatever measures its elected
officials deem fit to promote the wellbeing of the people. If a
government of a sovereign nation does not have this right, who then
has such a right?
It is obvious that the Complaints filed by FEDECAMARAS and the CTV
are part of a continuing policy aimed at making the ILO the stage to
gain advantages in the political disputes inside Venezuela and not,
as it should be, to defend trade union rights when these are
The Proposal of an ILO Commission of Inquiry
Venezuela has received several Direct Contact visits from officers of
the ILO. A Direct Contact Mission of the ILO visited the country on
October 13-15, 2004. The delegation interviewed leaders of the UNT,
at which time we provided complete information and the truth about
the situation of Trade Union Freedoms in Venezuela. We rejected point
by point the joint accusations by the bosses and the leaders of the
CTV -- leaders who, it should be noted, hold office illegitimately as
they were "elected" in fraudulent trade union elections in October
The UNT learned during that visit that the Executive Director in
charge of Principles and Fundamental Rights in the ILO, Mr. Kari
Tapiola, had informed the government of Venezuela that several
employer delegates had filed a Complaint against the government of
Venezuela based on Article 26 of the ILO Constitution. If approved,
this Article 26 Complaint would call for sending a full Commission of
Inquiry to Venezuela to investigate the status of trade union
freedoms and the right to create a trade union (ILO Convention 87)
and the right of trade unions to collective bargaining (ILO
Convention 98), both conventions ratified by Venezuela.
It should be noted that the employers' delegates, both full and
alternates, who supported the Article 26 Complaint by FEDECAMARAS
were the delegates from the following countries: Argentina,
Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Cyprus, France, Germany, India,
Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Saudi Arabia, South Africa,
Venezuela, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Great Britain and the
United States -- for a total of 23 employers.
The next Governing Body of the ILO on March 8-24, 2005, must decide
by majority vote if Article 26 of the ILO Constitution applies or not
in the case of Venezuela.
The Complaint lodged by the employers notes that "since 1999 the
employers' association of Venezuela, as well as the workers'
organizations, have been victims of intimidation. Moreover, the
government's policies have led to the closure of 100,000 companies
and the loss of employment for thousands of workers. ... Yet despite
the different recommendations formulated by the governing bodies of
the ILO, the Venezuelan government continues to make physical,
economic and moral attacks against independent Venezuelan employers,
sidelining the majority of employer organizations and excluding them
from the processes of social dialogue and tripartite consultation."
These are among the many arguments contained in the ILO Complaint.
It also should be noted that since March 2003, the employers' group
of the ILO has been threatening to push for the Commission of Inquiry
procedure in relation to Venezuela. Thus, before the end of the 92nd
meeting of the International Labor Conference, the spokesperson for
the employers, during the Conference plenary session devoted to the
report from the Committee of Experts on the Application of
Conventions and Recommendations, said the following: "Unfortunately
this year we have not been able to impose a special paragraph for
Venezuela, a country where there are undisputed violations of trade
union freedoms. This situation has not improved especially in
relation to previous years, during which we introduced special
paragraphs. For this reason, the employers will present in conformity
with Article 26 of the ILO Constitution, a more stringent Claim, one
that no doubt has already reached the International Labor Bureau."
The UNT considers that the convening of an ILO Commission of Inquiry,
as proposed by the employers of Venezuela and their counterparts in
other countries, is aimed at imposing a "sanction" against the
government of a sovereign country. Such a Commission of Inquiry would
also be an affront against all Venezuelan trade unionist who are
truly committed to the defense of the workers and their rights, to
the defense of national sovereignty and democracy.
That is why we urge all our trade union brothers and sisters around
the world to endorse and support the "Open Letter to the Workers'
Group of the ILO" which accompanies this Memorandum.
Caracas, February 2005
National Union of Workers of Venezuela (UNT)
The Truth About Trade Union Freedoms in Venezuela
(major excerpts from a pamphlet produced in June 2004 by the national
coordinators of the National Union of Workers of Venezuela/UNT)
In 1999, Hugo Chávez Frías became president of Venezuela, having won
the presidential election in late 1998. Soon after, FEDECAMARAS, the
country's employer association, and the leadership of the
Confederation of Venezuelan Workers (CTV) began filing charges
against the Venezuelan government within the International Labor
Organization (ILO) system, alleging violation of trade union rights
1) The 1999 Constitution
The first set of charges by FEDECAMARAS and its cronies pertain to
the process initiated by the Constituent Assembly of 1999 which,
given the endemic history of corruption and government control of the
trade unions, placed the matter of democratizing the trade union
movement on the order of the day.
The Constitution of 1999 fully respected trade union autonomy while
addressing three central questions: henceforth (1) the executive
board members of the trade unions must declare their financial assets
to the Comptroller of the Republic, (2) the workers' representatives
on the board of directors of the state enterprises must be elected
democratically by the workers, and not appointed (as had been the
case) by the CTV, and (3) the leadership of the trade unions must be
renewed periodically through a union election process.
The new Venezuelan Constitution, including its reforms aimed at
ensuring a democratic trade union movement, were then approved by the
Venezuelan people through a national referendum.
These three questions pertaining to the trade unions, all clearly and
openly democratic in nature, were reported to the ILO by FEDECAMARAS
and the CTV leadership as "violations of trade union freedoms." In
response to the complaints, the ILO sent a Direct Contact mission to
Venezuela. We ask: How can anyone claim that trade union freedoms are
infringed upon when, in the quest to root out corruption, trade union
leaders are compelled to declare their financial assets? The
Constitution makes this requirement of all public functionaries and
employees. And in what way are trade union freedoms violated when
workers are given the right to choose their own representatives?
2) The 2001 Trade Union Elections
The process of relegitimizing the leaderships of the trade unions
through elections took place in 2001 under the supervision of the
National Election Council (CNE), as per the Constitution and the
referenda process in which the CTV itself participated. This process
was consistent, moreover, with the bylaws of the CTV.
A total of 3,543 trade union organizations were registered
officially. Some others did not participate in the re-registration
process, arguing that the CNE guidelines went against their bylaws.
The CTV and its affiliates, though, did participate, thereby
accepting the role and functions of the CNE as established by the
1999 Constitution and ratified by the people in a national referendum.
Of this total, 2,974 trade union organizations fulfilled the legal
requirements for the electoral process; 2,871 of them were local
trade union organizations, while 103 were trade union federations.
At that time (2001), 68% of the trade union organizations were
affiliated to the CTV, while 29% did not belong to any federation or
confederation, and 3% were affiliated to other existing trade union
confederations. A total of 2,852 trade union elections were carried
out, and 2,749 were approved and ratified by the CNE. One-hundred and
three trade union organizations, however, did not complete their
election process due to defects and problems in the process. This
included the CTV itself.
During the CTV's elections on October 21, 2001 several voting centers
were assaulted by armed bands, and witnesses were refused access in
many voting centers located on the premises of private companies. The
minutes and documents of the CTV that included the number of
affiliates had to be filled out immediately, but these took up to
three weeks in being returned to the CNE. Those documents that
arrived clearly had been tampered with. Major questions arose
immediately as to the legitimacy of the ballot results and the total
number of affiliates claimed by the CTV.
The CTV leadership claimed that it had sent double the number of
records than were received by the CNE, and it blamed the CNE for the
alleged "disappearance" of the records of the other affiliates. When
asked to produce copies of the originals, the CTV offifcers refused,
choosing to blame the CNE instead for alleged "tampering" and "fraud"
-- which was a boldfaced lie. Objecting to the official results, the
president of the CTV's Election Council -- a Council that had
developed a hardened and factional oppositional stance toward the
Chavez administration -- refused to sign the final CTV Election
The CTV declared that it had 1,050,000 affiliated members -- yet only
450,000 workers of the CTV were on the books at the time of the
election process, according to the statements submitted by the CTV
leadership. Again, despite repeated attempts by the CNE to set the
record straight, the CTV leaders were unable or unwilling to provide
any documentation for the remaining 600,000 workers claimed to be
part of the CTV. What is more, the final minutes of the CTV submitted
to the CNE show that only 240,000 workers actually participated in
the election that elected Carlos Ortega president of the CTV. The
documents submitted to the CNE show that Ortega was elected with
150,000 votes -- only about 15% of the total number of members
alleged by the CTV.
The CNE did not accept this illegal self-proclamation of Ortega as
president of the CTV. This, however, did not prevent Mr. Pedro
Carmona, president of FEDECAMARAS -- that is, the employers'
organization of Venezuela -- from holding a press conference and
announcing to the national and international press that Carlos Ortega
had been elected president of the CTV. It was clear to most people in
Venezuela, in particular to most of the rank and file of the CTV,
that Ortega's electoral "victory" had been decided by FEDECAMARAS --
just as had occurred for so many decades in the past.
Every opportunity was afforded to the CTV leadership to come clean
with its internal election results, but at every juncture, they
refused to comply. So we ask the ILO and the international labor
movement: Is having FEDECAMARAS choose the president of the CTV
consistent with trade union freedoms? We don't think so.
The majority of local affiliates of the CTV understood this corporate
maneuver and, in writtent statements sent to the CNE, they refused to
recognize the fraudulent Executive Boards placed at the helm of the
main CTV federations of the following sectors: oil, electricity,
pharmaceuticals, aluminum, steel, university and public sector. The
local affiliates demanded that the CNE not recognize these Executive
Boards and that the CNE issue a statement to that effect.
The CNE did not issue such a statement because it never received
documents from the CTV that would allow it to issue a favorable or
unfavorable opinion regarding the elections and the Executive Boards.
Up till now, three years later, the full documentation requested by
the CNE to validate the CTV internal elections -- documentation that
is required of unions in countries around the world -- has not been
delivered to the CNE.
What we, the UNT, say is that the leadership announced by the CTV in
October 2001 is not legitimate: The process that led to its
"election" -- the more appropriate term is selection -- is contrary
to the CTV's own bylaws, just as it is contrary to the entire
Constitutional process that was established to ensure the democratic
functioning of the trade unions in Venezuela.
The questioning of the legitimacy of the CTV's Executive Board does
not come from the Venezuelan government, as the ILO has been told
repeatedly. It comes from the hundreds of local affiliates of the CTV
in signed statements submitted to the CNE.
The CTV and its freedom to function has not been attacked. The
legitimacy of its Executive Board is still in dispute, as the CTV
refuses to comply with the process that was established for all
unions in our country. ILO officials have demanded that the
Venezuelan government recognize the self-proclaimed CTV Executive
Board, but that would mean ignoring the country's laws, the will of
the overwhelming majority of CTV members and affiliates, and even the
CTV's own bylaws.
Is it the proper purview of the ILO to place such demands on the
3) Conspiratorial Activity Against the Bolivarian Constitution
On December 10, 2001 FEDECAMARAS, with CTV's support, called a
national strike to protest a set of laws that had been passed by the
Chavez administration. By the end of 2001, the CTV had strayed even
further from its mandate as a trade union organization, becoming a
key political adjunct to FEDECAMARAS and the newly formed Opposition
"Coordinadora," or Coordinating Committee.
The Venezuelan Constitution allows for an abrogation referendum
through which citizens or organizations can propose the repeal of any
law passed by the executive branch. However, FEDECAMARAS never
requested such a referendum; rather, it took the path of direct
confrontation. The strike was limited to the private sector: workers
were sent home. In the public sector it only affected the oil
industry's offices and management areas. Inside the CTV, the decision
by the illegitimate Executive Board to support the bosses' strike was
strongly questioned by the ranks.
By the year 2002, the political climate had become even more
polarized, with harsh anti-government statements issued regularly by
some high-ranking military officials. The oil industry's management
also issued a statement against the government's oil policy, which
had called for strengthening OPEC and respecting production quotas.
The government appointed a new Board of Directors for PDVSA, the
national oil company. Management in the oil industry then formed
UNAPETROL, which was supposedly a trade union but whose officers are
all top industry managers. A short time later, FEDECAMARAS -- again
supported by the CTV -- called another strike, this time an
indefinite strike aimed at securing Chavez's resignation. Most of the
country's trade unions rejected this strike, including the three
existing federations in the oil sector, with the CTV being one of
The strike had little support but it continued nonetheless because it
was a smokescreen to provide cover for a military coup that was
carried out only a few hours after the strike began.
4) The Military Coup of April 11, 2002
On April 11, 2002 a military coup was organized by high-ranking
military officials -- with direct support from the owners of the mass
media networks, the Executive Board of the CTV, FEDECAMARAS, and the
top management of the oil industry. The military officials behind the
coup demanded Chavez's resignation and threatened to attack the
presidential palace, which was surrounded by thousands of Chavez
supporters. Chavez agreed to surrender, but he did not resign from
his post and so was detained by the top military officers. In the
early morning hours, the plotting military commanders announced the
new president of Venezuela: Pedro Carmona, then president of
The following morning, on April 12, the promoters of the coup
announced the composition of the new government. Two top government
positions -- the Ministry of Labor and the Minister of Planning --
were given to the CTV officials. A few days later, speaking from
exile, Pedro Carmona explained that "The only argument within the
government [established by the coup] was about whom would be
Venezuela's new vice president, given that the CTV insisted that it
should be granted that position."
The only decree of the FEDECAMARAS-CTV government -- one that was
adopted by consensus -- consisted in suppressing the Constitution,
dissolving the National Assembly, and dismissing all the government
ministers, the Attorney General and the magistrates of the Supreme
Court. What was installed in power was a dictatorship, by any
standard definition of the term -- and this dictatorship was publicly
supported by the CTV. In the national oil industry, management took
over the entire administration of this sector and dismissed any
worker who did not support the coup. More than 2,000 firings were
announced in a single day. Especially targeted were trade unionists
and officers at all levels. The homes of several trade unionists were
raided, and hundreds of unionists were incarcerated during the coup's
But while there was a lot of celebrating going on in the presidential
palace, the streets started buzzing with protests against the
dictatorship. Spontaneously, on the afternoon of April 12, a labor
strike erupted throughout the country's main industries. The strike
in the oil, steel and transportation sectors was particularly massive.
By April 13, the strike and protests had extended to the military
garrisons, where now middle and top army brass disavowed the coup
leaders. In just a few hours, hundreds of thousands of protesters
amassed at the doors of the presidential palace. In the early morning
of Sunday, April 14 Chavez was rescued from La Orchila, a Venezuelan
island in the Caribbean, and taken back to the presidential palace,
thus restoring the continuity of the Venezuelan Constitution.
Despite the FEDECAMARAS-CTV-orchestrated military coup against the
government and the Constitution, there were no acts of persecution or
vengeance on the part of the government. The only civilian who was
put under arrest was Pedro Carmona, the little-while dictator. A few
days later, Carmona managed to escape from his house arrest and take
refuge in the Colombian Embassy, from where he fled to exile.
Only three weeks after the military coup, in May 2002, an ILO Direct
Contact Mission visited Venezuela. It met with representatives from
the trade unions, employers' associations, and government. The ILO
Mission listened, and was able to review all the facts submitted by
the government and the genuine trade unionists. After analyzing the
information gathered during the trip to Venezuela, the ILO Mission
issued its report a few months later.
That ILO Mission report is startling. Nowhere does it mention that
there was a military coup or a short-lived dictatorship by the
president of FEDECAMARAS that suppressed every democratic right in
our country. Nowhere is there a mention of the direct and
incontrovertible complicity of the CTV's self-annointed leadership in
the military coup. Nowhere is there a mention that hundreds of trade
union leaders and rank-and-file activists were jailed by the
Carmona-CTV dictatorship, even though the ILO Mission met with the
jailed unionists and gathered their testimonies.
The ILO Mission report mentions only that a trade union leader -- an
opponent of the Chavez government -- was murdered, but it does not
give the name of the unionist or provide any information about the
place and manner in which this alleged murder took place. The ILO
Mission report, quite incredibly, stated that it was the CTV that was
being harassed by the government, despite the fact that the ILO
Mission met freely with its representatives and that the CTV had been
a main actor in the recent anti-Chavez coup
It is our view that the ILO should guarantee that its functionaries,
especially those who are part of a Direct Contact Mission, are
unbiased and transparent in their judgements. But where was that
transparency? Were the ILO Mission functionaries really unbiased? Why
did the ILO Mission reject all the information provided by the
government and the trade unionists from all levels who provided ample
documentation and proof of the pro-management and anti-labor role of
the self-proclaimed CTV leaders? How could this ILO Mission so
blatantly ignore the facts? Needless to say, the Venezuelan workers
are greatly perturbed by their experience with this ILO Direct
Contact Mission and by the ILO recommendations that flowed from this
clearly biased report.
5) The Oil Lockout/Work Stoppage of December 2002-January 2003
In the aftermath of the CTV Executive Board's open and direct
participation in the military coup, the CTV leadership fractured into
two. One wing followed the illegitimate Executive Board and supported
its participation in the Opposition Coordinating Committee. But
another wing denounced the CTV's leadership role in the military coup
and set out to prevent a new coup attempt by the Opposition
At the 90th International Labor Conference of the ILO in June 2002,
two fractions of the CTV demanded to represent the CTV at the ILO
conference. The Labor Ministry referred the matter of the delegation
to the Supreme Court, which resolved the controversy by reporting
that in view of the lack of documents, it was "of public knowledge"
that Carlos Ortega was president of the CTV. The outcome was that the
two wings of the CTV were both represented at the ILO conference,
with an equal number of delegates on each side. The pro-coup wing of
the CTV did not protest the mixed delegation to the ILO's Credentials
Later that year, the employers tried once again to legally register
the oil management's "trade union" -- UNAPETROL. The Labor Ministry
rejected this registration based on the fundamental principles of
trade unionism, stating that the employers' representative cannot be
part of a workers' trade union. Not surprisingly, the CTV coup wing
supported the demand to register the oil managers' association, even
though three oil workers' federations adamantly opposed oil
management's claim to be a union.
In December 2002, the oil management called a strike, again with the
public support of FEDECAMARAS and the CTV. The majority of the oil
industry's managers and directors abandoned their posts, forcing
operators to leave their areas unattended. After three days of
strike, the trade union organizations in the oil sector called the
operators back to work, thus ignoring the orders from the industry's
top management. Ninety percent of operators answered the call to
return to work and confronted the managers, thereby starting a battle
over control of the oil industry..
For two months, workers tried to operate the oil industry without the
supervision of the bosses or top administrators. They faced constant
threats, including bodily threats, from the employers and their hired
goons, just as they faced all sorts of technical problems -- ranging
from outright computer sabotage of the operations to terrorist
attacks that crippled many sectors of the oil industry.
The outcome of this confrontation is well known: The oil workers and
their unions prevailed against the bosses. About 80% of the industry
had to be operated manually to overcome the computer sabotage. The
ports were put under the dockworkers' control, and the oil rigs were
brought back to port by sailors who ousted the officers that had
hijacked the ships at high sea. The refineries once again produced
gasoline and gas required by the population, and the truckers' trade
unions guaranteed fuel distribution to the entire country. By the end
of January 2003, the oil lockout/work stoppage was defeated. In
February, the situation returned to normal.
Following the lockout/work stoppage, 18,000 PDVSA functionaries --
including executives; top, middle and lower-level managers,
supervisors, foremen, computer technicians, and security personnel --
were removed from their jobs. A large number of them were evicted
outright from their posts by the oil workers themselves, who were
outraged at this attempt to cripple the oil industry and to cause
untold damage to the Venezuelan people. The workers, the unionists in
the oil industry, have told the Chavez government in no uncertain
terms that they will not allow these saboteurs and scabs back to
their old jobs.
It should be noted that not a single operator or blue-collar worker
was dismissed from PDVSA, not even those who were in favor of the
strike. Only directors and administrative personnel that committed
sabotage were dismissed.
It is again most unfortunate that many ILO officials have pressured
the Venezuelan government to take back those dismissed persons in the
name of trade union freedoms. But why weren't the opinions of the
more than 30,000 oil workers taken into account? How is it possible
to consider that oil industry managers and directors who attacked the
workers should be considered the victims?
It must also be pointed out that as a result of this oil lockout/work
stoppage, more than 250,000 workers in other industries were laid off
by employers who shut down their operations for two months --
irresponsibly -- in solidarity with oil management. An additional
250,000 or so workers were asked to accept pay cuts and other
infringements to their collective-bargaining agreements in the name
of "overcoming the crisis" created by the oil managers at PDVSA. All
in all, well over half a million workers had to pay directly and
dearly for this bosses' strike.
What's even worse, even today large numbers of employers are refusing
to reopen their factories, and/or take back their former employees,
and/or pay the benefits to which the workers are entitled. Why was
the ILO's Direct Contact Mission not interested in the fate of these
workers? Why was their only concern that of the oil managers? What
kind of trade union freedoms are these that don't apply to the
workers, but only to management?
There can be no doubt about this: The CTV leadership placed itself on
the opposite side of the battle lines from the workers. Not only did
it support the military coup and the employer lockout, it called on
workers to accept all the sacrifices demanded by the employers in the
name of these employer assaults on workers' rights.
As a result of these shameful actions, the CTV's internal fracturing
turned into an open division. Differences were no longer political or
methodological in nature. The CTV's illegitimate Executive Board was
openly carrying out FEDECAMARAS's decisions.
In April 2003, two months after the employer lockout had ended, more
than 1,000 local, regional and national trade unions -- 60% of them
coming from the CTV -- held a trade union assembly to create the
National Workers Union of Venezuela (UNT).
6) The UNT: Who We Are and What We Stand For
The UNT now represents the overwhelming majority of the organized
workers in Venezuela.
Given this new situation, it is understandable that FEDECAMARAS and
its allies have launched a massive campaign aimed at discrediting the
UNT, claiming that the UNT is a government-sponsored union
federation. This charge is totally baseless. In fact, by issuing such
a charge, the CTV is doing nothing other than project its own image,
because for 40 years it was the government's official appendage in
the labor movement.
The UNT defends the Bolivarian Constitution and its principles, but
it also defends workers and their rights against any enemy, whether
inside or outside the government, be it the Chavez government or
anyone other one. Seventy percent of the UNT's trade union leaders
have been active in the trade union movement for more than 15 years;
they were not trained under the protection of any government. They
are wedded to the fundamental principles of independent and
democratic trade unionism.
The only true labor conflicts that the Chavez government has had to
deal with have been with UNT trade unions. However, it is also true
that we in the UNT have called on the trade union organizations and
workers to defend the constitutionally elected government against the
The UNT's leadership is like a melting pot that brings together all
the different currents and ideologies that exist within the
Venezuelan workers' movement: Social Democracy, Social-Christianity,
Marxism, Latin-Americanism, Anarcho-Syndicalism, or simply unaligned,
independent Trade Unionism. The UNT embodies the history of the
Venezuelan labor movement. It is not possible to reduce the labor
movement or the UNT to a single philosophy or political current.
The UNT defends social programs that use the nation's oil resources
to pay for increased health care, water, proper housing and
electricity for the poorest sectors of our people. We support all
efforts to expand education to 2 million illiterate Venezuelans, and
to organize cooperatives to rebuild the dismantled industrial base of
We reject the privatization of public services and enterprises. We
are against the Free Trade Area of the Americas and the U.S.-led
invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. We support these causes not
because we are on Chavez side but because we have always defended
these positions. It is the Chavez administration that is finally on
our side on these questions.
We defend trade union freedoms not only with words or because we are
scared of what others might say, but because we have been the victims
of trade union persecution. This is deeply ingrained in all of us.
No CTV member has been detained, tortured or reported missing during
this Chavez administration. Unfortunately, we cannot say the same
about the governments that the CTV supported for 40 years.
We in the UNT support trade union pluralism. We believe that every
confederation must have the same rights. We are opposed to any
subsidies by the state for trade unions, and we favor the elimination
of the mandatory affiliation of public workers to trade unions. The
public sector workers should decide for themselves which unions
should negotiate their collective-bargaining agreements. Only the
workers should choose their leaders and representatives on the Board
of Directors of the state services and enterprises.
To take a stance contrary to these principles of trade union
pluralism and autonomy is to violate basic trade union freedoms --
which is precisely what the CTV has been doing over countless years.
But alas, to their great chagrin, the era of government-imposed trade
unionism is over.
8) Join Us in Rejecting These Unfounded Charges Against Venezuela and
Against the UNT!
We in the UNT reject the charges against Venezuela's sovereignty and
against the UNT that are contained in the Complaints filed by
FEDECAMARAS and its junion partners in the CTV. We reject the charges
that trade union freedoms are violated in Venezuela.
There is no doubt in our minds, in fact, that the recent years have
witnessed the period of the greatest trade union freedoms in the
history of Venezuela. In no other period have we had so many diverse
trade union organizations, or has a worker been freer to affiliate to
We therefore call upon the international labor movement to reject all
the charges -- new and old -- brought forward within the ILO system
against Venezuela and against the UNT, in particular.
In our view, the methodology that has been applied in the case of
Venezuela leaves much to be desired regarding the ILO's much-touted
transparency. The interest of some of the ILO officers in charge of
the cases examined in relation to Venezuela does not seem to be
focused -- at least not up till now -- on establishing the objective
truth. It would appear that the main concern is to respond positively
to the pressures from the employers and their sponsors in the
corporate boardrooms and halls of power in the United States to force
the Venezuelan government to agree to some of their requests.
We fully understand that the issues are complex and often confusing.
We understand that well-meaning people might harbor doubts as to what
we are saying. We always have been willing to examine all the facts
and to provide full documentation to back our statements. We have not
opposed visits from officials sent from the ILO to evaluate the
conditions of trade union rights and freedoms in Venezuela.
But we know that forces are at play here in the Venezuelan that do
not have the best interests of working people in mind, and that have
used extra-legal means to accomplish their anti-labor objectives.
We hear regularly from representatives of FEDECAMARAS and the CTV
that unfavorable ILO reports and recommendations regarding the
situation of trade union freedoms in Venezuela could lead to a
campaign of sanctions and isolation of Venezuela, perhaps even an
economic embargo. These statements deeply worry us.
People within FEDECAMARAS and the CTV to make such statements are
seeking to instil fear in the population of Venezuela. They want to
convince the Venezuelan workers and people that any the future
envisioned within the framework of the Bolivarian Revolution will be
very dark, that it will entail constant war and chaos.
These spokespersons for the employers and the wealthy elite want to
instil fear among the people so that we are willing to give up the
ideals of building the new country envisioned by the Bolivarian
Revolution. The same thing happened with Nicaragua. And if fear does
not defeat us, then there is always the threat of a "liberating"
invasion, as happened in Iraq.
That is why we are summoning all supporters of labor and democratic
rights the world over to reject the charges by FEDECAMARAS and the
CTV. For us, this is a life-or-death question.
We are deeply concerned that the accusation of alleged violations to
union freedoms in Venezuela could become the equivalent of the
accusation of harboring "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq. We are
deeply concerned this is simply a pretext to invade Venezuela to take
control of our oil riches.
No, the problem in Venezuela is not one of lack of trade union
freedoms. The problem is that we are sitting on top of oil reserves
that others, the greedy and the wealthy, want desperately but that
the Venezuelan people need to put poverty and all the ills of
corporate globalization behind them once and for all.
That is why our motto is and will remain: "Hands Off Venezuela!"
National Coordinating Committee
Union Nacional de Trabajadores/UNT
(National Union of Venezuelan Workers
VENEZUELA: JOINT ILC-UNT DECLARATION
- Appeal for solidarity with the people and workers of Venezuela
- Against the threats and provocations threatening their national sovereignty
- For the defense of true freedom of trade union organization
(Caracas -- December 10, 2004)
We -- members of the International Liaison Committee of Workers and
Peoples (ILC) who were present in Caracas for the recall referendum
of August 15, together with leaders of the National Union of Workers
(UNT) of Venezuela -- address our trade union brothers and sisters,
and all labor activists and defenders of democratic and trade union
rights throughout the world:
On November 18, a brutal murder shook the Venezuelan people. Judge
Danilo Anderson, who was investigating those involved in the coup
d'etat of April 2002 against the elected government of Hugo Chavez,
was the victim of a terrorist bomb placed in his car.
On November 24, the UNT reacted and declared:
"Enough impunity! He was killed because he fought such impunity and
was acting for the tribunals to provide justice. It is not necessary
to be a police officer to know that those who ordered Danilo's death
are implicated in the events of April 2002 he was investigating.
Those who are implicated in these events are powerful economic
sectors, politicians and some military groups that still exist within
and without the National Armed Forces (FAN), who always believed they
were untouchable. These are same minorities that have sought to
impose coup d'etats, illegal work stoppages and paramilitary and
On August 15, the victory of the "NO" vote in the recall referendum
ratified the maintenance in power of Chavez. In the October 31
regional elections, the pro-imperialist opposition and other sectors
continued to attempt, with the cruelest methods to defy the sovereign
will of the Venezuelan people, as proven by the murder of Danilo
This is the reason why we ask all our brothers and sisters to support
the demands formulated by the UNT:
"Down with impunity! Punish the murderers and their sponsors!
- Block the bank accounts of the people and institutions incriminated
in this assassination!
- Stop the offensive of the bosses in the ILO!
Judge Anderson was investigating the role of Pedro Carmona Estanga, a
CEO of FEDECAMARAS (the bosses' association) who was made "President
of the Republic" for less that 48 hours in April 2002. As is known,
the extraordinary mobilization of the Venezuelan people
re-established Hugo Chavez in power and led to the failure of the
After the failed coup d'etat, FEDECAMARAS played a leading role in
the stoppage/sabotage of the oil industry at the end of 2002 and the
beginning of 2003. No workers' assembly planned this stoppage. The
bosses, based on orders of FEDECAMARAS, closed the companies and paid
the workers "not to work." No trade union assumed responsibility for
this so-called "stoppage" -- which was actually decided by
politicians, bosses and some self-proclaimed trade union "leaders,"
in order to sabotage the principal source of income of Venezuela,
thereby imposing enormous sacrifices on the entire population,
especially those who are the most exploited.
With equal cynicism, FEDECAMARAS at the International Labor
Conference of the ILO (June 2004 in Geneva) -- with the support of
the representatives of the employers group from 22 countries
(Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Cyprus, France,
Germany, India, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Saudi Arabia,
South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Tunisia, Great Britain and
the United States), many of whom, in their own countries, attack the
labor rights and trade union rights of workers -- presented a new
"complaint" against the Venezuelan government, alleging Article 26 of
the ILO Constitution (constituting a Commission of Inquiry).
In this "complaint," the Venezuelan government is accused of not
observing the Convention relative to trade union freedom and the
protection of the right to join a trade union (Convention No. 87) and
the Convention on the right to establish a trade union and to
collective bargaining (No. 98) of the ILO, both ratified by Venezuela.
The Governing Body of the ILO in November 2004 moved the evaluation
of this "complaint" to their next meeting in March 2005 (voted on by
the majority to determine if Article 26 of the ILO Constitution
applies or not.)
Dear Sisters and Brothers:
The proof of the existence of trade union freedom is the existence in
Venezuela of the UNT trade union federation. The UNT was constituted
in April 2003, when the trade union rank and file rejected the
participation in the work stoppages of the leaders of the Venezuelan
Workers Confederation (CTV), behind the backs of the workers, in
alliance with FEDECAMARAS and opposition forces.
The proposed attack against the government of Venezuela by
FEDECAMARAS is, in fact, an attack against the very existence of the
UNT as an independent trade union federation, autonomous from the
government and political parties. It is an attack aimed at
maintaining the "monopoly" of trade union representation by the CTV,
which does not correspond to the concrete reality of the trade union
movement in Venezuela -- which today is organized almost entirely by
It's the Venezuelan workers who have the right to choose the trade
unions that should represent them -- not the FEDECAMARAS bosses!
Regarding the supposed violations of the "right to strike," it would
have been necessary to produce a legitimate workers ' strike to make
such a claim -- and not a stoppage/sabotage by the bosses, which was
All these facts were established in an interview with 35 UNT leaders
that was conducted by the Direct Contact Mission of the ILO that went
to Venezuela on October 13 and 14, 2004.
That is why we appeal to all trade unionists, labor activists and
supporters of democratic and trade union rights, to tell them there
is no reason to accept the "Commission of Inquiry" called for by
FEDECAMARAS and the bosses' group. We must support the sovereign will
of the working class of Venezuela to build their own future and
create the trade union organizations of their choice.
The "complaint" by FEDECAMARAS is a provocation and should be
rejected as such. We ask all our sisters and brothers throughout the
world to inform their trade union organizations at all levels of this
bosses' offensive so that, in particular, those delegates of the
Workers Group of the ILO will reject the application of Article 26
against Venezuela , requested by Fedecamaras and its allies. We also
call on you to apply this same pressure on your respective
The UNT is preparing its National Assembly of Delegates at the
beginning of 2005 to discuss and adopt its final statutes. We are
inviting trade unionists to come to this meeting and establish
relations with the UNT. At the same time, we are organizing an
international meeting to discuss all the questions raised by the
struggle of the workers for their emancipation.
December 10, 2004
National Coordinators of the UNT of Venezuela: Orlando Chirino,
Marcela Maspero, Stalin Perez Borges, Ruben Linares and Eduardo
ILC Delegation: Julio Turra (CUT Brazil), Fred Hirsch (Labor Council,
San Jose, CA), Robert Irminger (Labor Council, San Francisco, CA),
Armando Pasos (SITUAM, Mexico), Isaac Oliveira (SINTRAJUF,
Pernambuco, Brazil), Jose Ricardo Jacome (SINDSEP-DF, Brazil), Tomas
Jensen (Asociacion Nuestra America, Sao Paulo, Brazil)
OWC CAMPAIGN NEWS - distributed by the Open World Conference in
Defense of Trade Union Independence & Democratic Rights, c/o S.F. Labor
Council, 1188 Franklin St., #203, San Francisco, CA 94109.
To SUB/ UNSUBSCRIBE, contact the OWC at
Phone: (415) 641-8616 Fax: (415) 440-9297.
Visit our website at www.owcinfo.org - Notify if any change in email address.
(Please excuse duplicate postings, and please feel free to re-post.).
From the OWC: "While this UNT campaign against the ILO Complaint was launched only one week ago, it already has scored one important victory. This past week, the National Executive Committee of the 9-million-member CUT trade union federation in Brazil endorsed the Open Letter and voted to condemn any action by the ILO to convene a Commission of Inquiry in Venezuela (which would be the action taken if the Complaint were affirmed). The CUT will mandate its representative in the ILO Workers Group to fight this groundless Complaint."
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