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martes, junio 07, 2005

Update on ILO complaints filed against Venezuela

Below is the latest update from the Open World Conference on the ILO complaints filed against Venezuela by opposition union federation CTV and the national chamber of commerce FEDECAMERAS. At the recent congress of ORIT, which is the international association of unions in the Americas, a majority of delegates passed a resolution more or less endorsing the complaint (though the delegate from Brazil's CUT seems to have voted for the resolution against his organization's expressed position.)

OWC says that the ORIT resolution was "a sharp blow...to the Venezuelan labor movement and Chavez government." I'm not clear on whether the complaint or its endorsement are really all that important. Based on labor ministry staffer Ruben Molina's assessment, I'm inclined to think not. It's also notable that the first point of the ORIT resolution recognizes that Venezuela is making advances towards overcoming its neoliberal inheritance of the past decades, and it pointedly rejects any interference by the U.S. in Venezuela's affairs. So I suspect there is an element of theater in the international campaign. Here is the original resolution in Spanish and a translated English version.

Nevertheless, the fact that the AFL-CIO and the Solidarity Center are actively supporting and proponing the ILO complaint has, at the least, clear symbolic significance of their support for US. government policies against Venezuela.



Dear Sisters and Brothers:

A sharp blow was dealt to the Venezuelan labor movement and Chavez government on April 20-22, 2005 at the 16th Congress of the ORIT, held in Brasilia, the capital of Brazil. ORIT is the continental section in the Americas of the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions (ICFTU).

As you may know, the Bush administration is dead-set on getting the international labor movement to condemn the Chavez government for alleged "violations of trade union rights" in Venezuela. They also allege the newly formed independent trade union federation, the National Workers Union (UNT), is not legitimate. They claim, falsely, that it does not represent the Venezuelan labor movement.

Thanks to the efforts of trade unionists around the world who endorsed the broad-based campaign of the International Liaison Committee (ILC), the attempt to condemn the Chavez government via the ILO Complaint filed jointly by the bosses´ association Fedecamaras and the scab CTV union federation did not succeed at the March 8-22, 2005 meeting of the ILO in Geneva. The Bush administration -- supported, alas, by the AFL-CIO´s Solidarity Center -- did not have the votes to condemn the Venezuelan government.

While the Fedecamaras/CTV complaint was not defeated, as we would have liked, it was pushed back and referred to the November 2005 session of the International Labor Bureau of the ILO. While we had not won the war, we had won an important victory. [See joint UNT-ILC Communiqué below.]

The UNT as well as the Venezuelan government thanked the ILC for its support in this effort. They realize, as we do, that the U.S. government wants to set the stage for a direct military intervention in Venezuela -- and that one key piece for this is to secure a condemnation of the Venezuelan government for alleged "violations of labor rights." This would permit Bush, the No. 1 warmaker and unionbuster in the world, to claim that Venezuela is a "rogue state" that must be removed by force.

No sooner had we won an important battle at the ILO, however, the AFL-CIO's Solidarity Center regrouped and led the charge at the 16th Congress of ORIT. There, unfortunately, the Fedecamaras/CTV complaint was endorsed by a majority of the unions gathered in Brasilia.

Resolution No. 9, which was adopted by the ORIT delegates, states the following under Point 6:

"The Congress of CIOSL/ORIT reaffirms its preoccupation with the Complaint against the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela insofar as its practices violate trade union freedoms, and the Congress deplores the fact that the commitments made by said country in relation to the principles and practice of the ILO have not been met."

We are sending you below a report by Julio Turra on this issue and the debate it provoked within the Brazilian CUT trade union federation, whose representative at the ORIT meeting, Rafael Freire, voted for the resolution supporting the Fedecamaras/CTV Complaint, in violation of the CUT's stance opposing the Complaint.

At its recent expanded National leadership meeting on May 10-13, the CUT reaffirmed its opposition to the ILO Complaint against Venezuela and is now urging unions across the continent to do the same.

Clearly, this is a matter we have to move on quickly in the United States.

More than ever, it is urgent for trade unions locals, central labor councils, state federations and national unions to urge the national AFL-CIO leadership to drop its support for this ILO Complaint.

We also must urge the AFL-CIO to endorse the resolution adopted in June 2004 by the convention of the California Federation of Labor calling for U.S. Hands Off Venezuela. The resolution also calls upon the AFL-CIO to refuse the multi-millions of dollars given to the Solidarity Center by the State Department through the National Endowment of Democracy (NED) to impose the corporate policies of the U.S. government in attacking workers, their trade unions and the governments they defend.

At the end of July, the national AFL-CIO convention will take place in Chicago. It is important that a resolution on this question of defense of Venezuela's sovereignty can make it to the convention floor for a vote.

Please join us in promoting this effort far and wide in the U.S. trade union movement.

In solidarity,

Alan Benjamin and Ed Rosario
OWC Continuations Committee


(reprinted from ILC Newsletter No. 133)


The CUT Reaffirms its Support to the National Workers Union (UNT) of Venezuela

On May 10-13 there took place in Sao Paulo, Brazil, the eleventh national plenary assembly of the CUT, with 550 delegates from all over Brazil. Other than the national congress, it is the most important decision-making body of the union.

At this assembly of the CUT there was a debate on Venezuela, following the resolution adopted at the sixteenth Congress of the ORIT (the continental branch in the Americas of the ICFTU), which took place recently in Brasilia, from April 20 to April 22.

At that congress, the representative of the CUT, Rafael Freire, collaborated on and approved a resolution of support to the Complaint submitted to the ILO by Fedecamaras, the Venezuelan bosses' organization, and the CTV. [Rafael Freire is a member of the Socialist Democracy (DS) current of the Workers Party, a current to which the Agrarian Reform Minister Miguel Rossetto also belongs. - Ed.]

The Complaint was officially registered against the Venezuelan government, but in reality it would deny Venezuelan workers the right to freely organize unions of their choice.

This vote by a CUT leader for a proposal attacking the interests of a neighboring people constituted a flagrant violation of the position adopted only a few months earlier by the highest body of the CUT, its National Executive Board, which had publicly and firmly rejected the Complaint of Fedecamaras. This break with his mandate, came at a moment when Condoleezza Rice, in her tour of Brazil and Latin America, multiplied her threats against Venezuela.

In a letter addressed to the ILC, Julio Turra, summarizes the debates and conclusions of the plenary assembly of the CUT on this subject. See the letter below. - ILC Ed.



On the eve of the conference of trade unionists that the ILC organizes each year during the month of June in Geneva on the occasion of the International Labor Conference of the ILO, I send you the following information, which is key to re-igniting the campaign in defense of Venezuela and the UNT against the provocations of the allies of the Bush government.

The first day of debates in the plenary assembly of the CUT, the morning of May 11, an open letter was distributed to the delegates with the title "The Place of the CUT is at the side of the workers and people of Venezuela!" It explains:

'The CUT cannot turn its back on the workers and people of Venezuela and their organizations, which are fighting the policies of Bush! During the recent visit to Brazil by Condoleezza Rice, U.S. imperialism's goal of isolating the Chavez government was reaffirmed, paving the way for attacks against the sovereignty of the Venezuelan people.

"The CUT must reaffirm, in its national plenary assembly, its support to the workers and peoples of Venezuela and to their government in the face of the threat of an intervention by imperialism; this requires reaffirming the CUT's policy against supporting any and all attempts to condemn Venezuela in the international institutions for supposed attacks on union rights.

"These attacks coming from Fedecamaras and the CTV have the goal of covering up their active role, in alliance with the U.S. government, in the attempts to destabilize the Chavez government.

"The position of our representatives in the international union forums and in the ORIT must be to reject the Complaints of the Venezuelan bosses and their allies in the CTV!"

This resolution received the support of more than 50 delegates. A short resolution was then put forward by the International Relations Secretariat of the CUT to reaffirm the position of the National Executive of the CUT rejecting the Fedecamaras' Complaint against the Venezuelan government.

Three amendments were presented, all of which were accepted unanimously (see below).

This resolution shows that the battle against Fedecamaras' attempts to register a complaint vis-à-vis union rights in Venezuela (at the meeting of the administrative council of the ILO in November 2005) must be continued.

At the conference of the ILC on June 12, in Geneva, at which I will be present, we will certainly have the opportunity to re-launch this campaign, side by side with the comrades from the UNT, who will find an even greater echo amongst the unionists and unions throughout the world."

signed, Julio Turra,
Member of the National Executive Committee of the United Workers Central (CUT)


EXCERPTS from the motion adopted unanimously by the plenary assembly of the CUT- Sao Paulo, May 12, 2005

"Rejection of the Complaints registered by Fedecamaras and the CTV"

"The plenary assembly of the CUT declares itself for:

"The full-out rejection of any intervention on the part of the U.S. government against the inalienable sovereignty of our peoples to choose the paths that they wish to follow.

"The defense of union rights in the Venezuelan political process. (...)

"The rejection of the Complaints recently presented by Fedecamaras and the CTV to the ILO.

The CUT is following with interest the growth of the new union federation the UNT, which is regrouping a wide range of Venezuelan union traditions. The plenary assembly mandates the National Executive Committee to develop an exchange and solidarity program with this federation and all of the union sectors that express a democratic position in Venezuela."


Background Articles


Joint Communiqué Issued by the National Union of Workers of Venezuela (UNT) and the International Liaison Committee of Workers and Peoples (ILC)

Geneva, Switzerland -- March 23, 2005

Earlier today -- Wednesday, March 23 -- the Governing Body of the International Labor Organization (ILO) examined the Complaint issued by FEDECAMARAS, the employers' association of Venezuela, that sought to condemn the Venezuelan government for alleged violations of labor rights.

The ILO Governing Body concluded it could not reach an opinion on this Complaint given that all members of the Employers' Group (IOE) were at the same time signatories to the Complaint and members of the Committee on Trade Union Freedoms, and thus could not be both accusers and judges.

The ILO Governing Body has decided to postpone the examination of this Complaint until its session of November 2005, following the meeting of the Committee on Trade Union Freedoms that will take place at the yearly International Labor Conference of the ILO in June 2005, with a newly elected group of members.

The UNT and ILC are pleased to announce the declaration presented to the ILO's Governing Body by the Workers' Group of Latin America and the Caribbean (GRULAC), which states in part:

"The ILO Workers' Group of Latin America and the Caribbean (GRULAC) takes note of the fact that the government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has responded in a timely and ample way, with all the facts in hand, to the charges leveled against it. The reply and the facts demonstrate that the FEDECAMARAS Complaint against Venezuela has no merit. ...

"Therefore, given the fact that this point has been debated sufficiently, the ILO Governing Board should declare that the Complaint is groundless and does not merit the creation of a Commission of Inquiry. The Complaint, in fact, should simply be closed and filed."



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' rights.

Dear Sisters and Brothers:

We in Venezuela have 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 October 2004.

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 their hypocrisy?

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 Venezuelan government.

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 and 98.

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!

In solidarity,

signed by following National Coordinators of the UNT:

Orlando Chirino, Marcela Máspero, Stalin Pérez Borges and Rubén Linares

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(Please excuse duplicate postings, and please feel free to re-post.)

Chambers of Commerce like Fedecamaras can file complaints of unfair labor pracitices?!?!?!?

That shows what the ILO is worth. Not much
Actually, in 2003 the CTV (old-guard trade union confederation) filed Complaint No. 2249 concerning various allegations of violations of labor rights, while FEDECAMERAS filed Complaint No. 2254, in brief, exclusion from decision-making processes and interference by the government of employers' organizations.

But now it's being referred to as a joint complaint. Not clear precisely what that means in legal/administrative terms, but it seems that practically speaking the two complaints have been rolled into one.

More details and (somewhat dated) links to the two complaints can be found in this post -- scroll about a third of the way down the page, or just do a search for "2249".
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