Venezuela: Orinoco steel industry nationalised

By Community Reporters of Merida for Aporrea.org

(see original report in Spanish here)

Translated by Tim Bowron for The Spark

9/4/08

MERIDA, Venezuela. Steel workers and the trade union Sutiss have won their fight for the nationalisation of the steel industry firm Ternium-Sidor after months of strikes, confrontations and repression by the National Guard. This morning, at 1.22am, vice-president Ramón Carrizales, the envoy of the National Executive, finally opened a way forward to a solution in the conflict between the trade union alliance and the trans-national corporation’s management. During this conflict the workers had denounced before the Minister of Labour the multiple contractual irregularities and the prevailing conditions of capitalist exploitation, but in spite of all this they were not listened to by the Minister.

Carrizales spoke in the name of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela to communicate the decision already reached by the head of state Hugo Chávez Frás to renationalise Ternium Sidor, the largest steel producer in the country, controlled by the Italian-Argentine consortium Techint. The unprecedented character of the labour conflict in Sidor remained confirmed last night with the announcement of the Venezuelan government to retake majority shareholding in the firm, which was privatised in 1997. Following the petition of the United Union of Steel and Allied Workers (Sutiss) to resume talks with the company in the framework of the contractual negotiations, the Executive organised last Monday a meeting between the parties, which was marked from the outset by the determination of the vice-president to resolve this conflict once and for all. The Minister of Labour was not invited to this meeting.

The fact is that it was the forward pressure by the workers which triggered the approval of the nationalisation. Meanwhile management resisted agreement on the transfer to the payroll of more than 600 ancillary workers and the establishment of a pension for the retired workers at the level of the minimum national salary.

Triumph of the workers

At midnight the atmosphere was already tense in the meeting room of the Macagua hydroelectric complex. At this time the workers of Sutiss put forward an offer but without finding any response from company management.

Meanwhile, the threat of nationalisation hung over the room, gaining in likelihood each moment. Abruptly and almost surprising those present, the vice-president asked to put in the minutes the unwillingness of the representatives of the trans-national to put forward a counter offer, by so doing communicating the decision that no further formalities remained: Sidor would be nationalised.

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