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lunes, julio 18, 2005

Rights in Venezuela discussed at International Labor Conference

Some slightly delayed updates...

In the annual conference of the International Labor Organization last month, Venezuela's national Chamber of Commerce FEDECAMERAS asked the ILO Committee on Application of Standards (the body that reviews nations’ adherence to international labor standards) to send a high-level commission to Venezuela to investigate alleged violations of labor and employers’ rights.

The employer representatives also proposed that the ILO Committee “[urge] the Government to terminate immediately the judicial proceedings against the President of FEDECAMARAS, Mr. Carlos Fernandez, and that the detention order against the President of the CTV, Mr. Carlos Ortega, be lifted”, “[urge] the Government to initiate contacts with the members of UNAPETROL in order to find a solution to the problem of registering the union,” and “[request] the Government to initiate negotiations with the most representative workers’ confederations to find a solution to the dismissal of 18,000 workers from the PDVSA enterprise and to institute an independent investigation without delay into instances of alleged acts of violence against trade unionists.” It’s touching to see the deep concern exhibited by FEDECAMERAS for trade unionists’ rights.

The ILO committee rejected the proposal, and will not be sending the tripartite commission to investigate. (Incidentally, the Venezuelan government has already hosted two recent “direct contact missions,” a lower-level type of ILO delegation, in May 2002 and October 2004, and is now working to amend its Basic Labor Act, the Ley Orgánica de Trabajo, in accordance with suggestions made by last year’s mission.).

The Committee’s final conclusions are posted here; its major criticisms of Venezuela included “insufficiencies in the social dialogue”, the importance of non-interference in elections held by unions and employer organizations, and a call for the government ”to lift immediately the restrictions on the freedom of movement imposed on the leaders of FEDECAMARAS, Mr. Carlos Fernández and Ms. Albis Muñoz.” (Carlos Ortega was not included.) Although the UNT was incensed at this last point, it’s much milder than what FEDECAMERAS proposed.

The complaints filed earlier against Venezuela by FEDECAMERAS and the CTV remain open, and are scheduled to be taken up again in November. Rumor has it that last March Stan Gacek, until recently the representative of the AFL-CIO International Affairs Department, tried to broker a behind-the scenes deal in which the workers’ representatives collectively would agree to a support sending an official Commission of Inquiry to Venezuela in exchange for an agreement by the employers’ representatives for a Commission of Inquiry in Colombia, where most trade unionists are murdered each year than anywhere else. In past years the employers apparently have blocked any serious action against Colombia for its murderous labor practices. But the workers refused to play, and the alleged deal went nowhere.

You can read the minutes of the ILO committee’s discussion on Venezuela here. And here is the UNT statement on the meeting’s outcome.

By the way, the discussion of Venezuela dealt primarily with concerns about its adherence to ILO Convention 87 (freedom of association); similar discussions were held regarding concerns about the United States’ adherence to Convention 144 (consultations with workers and business). Venezuela has ratified 49 of the ILO Conventions (international agreements on labor rights, covering a wide spectrum of issues from freedom of association to rights of working women to fighting child labor). There are about 150 Conventions in total, excluding the ones that have been modified or are no longer in force. By way of comparison, Brazil has ratified 75, the United Kingdom has ratified 66, and the United States has ratified only 12.

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