Workers in Venezuela’s nationalised Venetur hotel chain are demanding respect for their labour rights and pushing for a say in management decisions.
Union representatives from several government-owned hotels met on Tuesday to clarify their current labour demands and organise future activities.
The workers assembly, which met in the Venetur Anauco Suites Hotel in Caracas, agreed a ten point document of grievances with hotel management. These included the expiration of contracts, the practice of outsourcing, the pressuring of workers and deterioration of hotel infrastructure.
“Once again, Venetur hotel workers have shown the problems resulting from mistreatment by management, whose actions are not in concordance with the revolutionary process,” said Ramon Becerra, a union representative of the Anauco Suites workers’ union.
Armando Flores, a member of the same union, further accused management of “ignoring workers benefits and proposals, and not respecting the labour law”.
The Venezuelan government currently owns thirteen hotels, which are run by national tourism body Venetur. Several of these hotels originally belonged to the Hilton chain but were nationalised to develop Venezuelan tourism and make the hotels accessible at “fair prices”.
The Venetur Anauco Suites Hotel in Caracas celebrated eleven years since its nationalisation last week, with workers receiving certificates to recognise five and ten years of service.
On that occasion, Becerra gave a speech in which he lauded the “rising consciousness” and “unbreakable unity” of the hotel’s workers, who had confronted Hilton chain bosses and supported the Bolivarian process over the last decade.
However, he also recalled that the union had confronted state-appointed managers who tried to “plunder” the hotel for self gain, as well as those who “in the name of the revolution have come to mistreat workers who carry in their history the defence of the Bolivarian process”.
In addition to demanding full respect for their labour rights, Venetur hotel workers are pushing for a greater say in management decisions.
“These companies were put into our hands so that they could be productive. The Socialist Network of Hotel Workers handed over a first document [of recommendations] to tourism minister Andres Izarra several days ago,” said the union leader of the Venetur Maremares hotel, Jose Carima.
“If in the next few days we don’t have a reply, we’re going to take street action,” added Carima, who spoke to Prensa Marea Socialista following the workers assembly on Tuesday.
The government is currently investing in a refurbishment of the Venetur hotel network, with tourism minister Izarra announcing an initial cash injection of 440 million BsF (US $69.8 million) at the beginning of May.
Worker participation and self management
Over the last decade Venezuela has seen an upswing in labour activity, with the occupation of dozens of factories by workers and an increase in union membership.
Further, within the more organised and radical sectors of the Venezuelan working class, a movement for “worker control”, or workers’ self-management, has developed.
This movement enjoyed the support of former president Hugo Chavez, who promoted a project for workers’ participation in the management of the state-owned heavy industries in the Guayana region.
This initiative met strong resistance from bureaucratic management and some local Chavista politicians, and has largely fallen by the wayside. Nevertheless, many Venezuelan workers continue to organise around the idea in both private and state-owned companies.
The worker control movement is set to meet in Guayana next month for its first national conference, titled “Assessment and Challenges for Worker Control and Workers Councils in the Construction of Socialism”.
The gathering will see the sharing of experiences of worker control between different groups, and will seek to design a manifesto and “plan of struggle” to strengthen the movement in the coming period.