Workers in several Venezuelan state owned companies have launched protests against what they call “bureaucratic” management, instead advocating that the companies be run under a worker control model.
Workers at the state run Lacteos Los Andes gained important concessions from the government this week after protesting management “irregularities” in the company, which makes milk, yogurt, and juice, among other products.
300 workers from Lacteos demonstrated last Monday outside the country’s National Assembly to highlight what workers described as a “sabotage” of company production by management and the minister for food, Felix Osorio.
Problems at the plant included a lack of primary materials being delivered for production and a fall in the number of trucks arriving at factory installations to distribute Lacteos Los Andes’ products. Workers charged management as trying to make the nationalised company fail as part of a plan to “hand it over to the right wing bourgeoisie business people”.
In a meeting with representatives of the Venezuelan presidency on Tuesday, Lacteos workers put forth their main concerns and demands, which were: lack of imported materials and containers for production, poor company administration, the withholding of accounting information, and “above all” not taking workers’ contributions into account.
“We have an unresponsive management that hasn’t done anything. The solution is to remove that management, and open an administrative, civil and penal investigation…this [company situation] can be solved with worker control,” said one worker to Aporrea.
As a result of the meeting, the Maduro presidency decided to dismiss Lacteos’ management, and guarantee the import and delivery of all materials required for the company’s production.
Lacteos workers further proposed to the executive that the company be run under a model of worker self-management, or “worker control”. On Thursday workers were set to debate this in a workers’ council meeting, aiming to propose one of their own to occupy the position of “worker president” at the company.
According to Aporrea, Lacteos workers “trust that President Maduro will fulfil agreements reached [with workers] to put Lacteos Los Andes back on a level footing”.
The struggle in Lacteos is one of several labour mobilisations in state run companies against management in recent weeks, including the successful effort by worker-run Diana Industries to avoid the “imposition” of a businessman as manager.
On Wednesday employees in state run food distributer PDVAL marched to the presidential palace at Miraflores to protest labour conditions and treatment by management. Workers said they do not enjoy a collective contract, and they did not receive an across the board pay rise granted to public sector workers earlier this year.
PDVAL workers have since met with management and reportedly reached some agreements in order to move forward. However workers sent a message to President Maduro that they do not regard recent incidents in Lacteos Los Andes, PDVAL and Diana Industries as isolated, warning the president against a “fifth column dressed in red” in state companies.
“We’re going to lose the revolution, Maduro, if we don’t get organised,” said one worker, according to Aporrea.
Meanwhile, in the state owned Pedro Camejo agricultural machinery and transport company, workers and farmers have occupied factory installations in the western state of Yaracuy.
In a press release on Wednesday, workers said they were fighting against the “idleness and lack of attention of management”, which has failed to procure necessary machinery parts, “putting the coming harvest in danger”. The workers also argued for the implementation of a worker control model at the company.
The occupation also has the support of various grassroots groups, the Hugo Chavez Frias commune, and the local mayoral candidate for the government’s United Socialist Party (PSUV), who argued for the company’s management to be “replaced”.