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Caracas, 29 September 2020. "Venezuelan workers today have a minimum wage of less than one dollar. That means subjecting the Venezuelan working people to total destitution," said Orlando Chirino, leader of the Socialism and Freedom Party (a member of the IWU-FI) and C-Cura, referring to the near-extinction of the wage in Venezuela. In the last few days, a symbolic event has taken place, but with a huge impact on the pockets of millions of Venezuelan workers: the dollar in the parallel market has crossed the barrier of Bs. 400.000. And what is so special about this? That the minimum wage stood at $ 1 dollar! In fact, as we write this note, we learn that the BCV (official) dollar is at 421,193.87 bolivars and the average for the parallel market is over 440,000 bolivars.

As we know, the official minimum wage was increased on 1 May this year, when it went from 250,000 to 400,000 bolivars. Since then, there has been no further increase in the minimum wage despite the astronomical rise in the price of basic basket.

"In five months, after Labour Day, what has happened is almost the extinction of wages in Venezuela. The galloping hyperinflation and Maduro's austerity package have destroyed the only resource workers have to eat and care for their personal needs and those of their families," Chirino said.

This situation of deteriorating wages would not be exclusive to public sector workers, but would also be occurring among private sector workers, and would be reflected in the violation or near-disappearance of collective bargaining, and in the liquidation of what Chirino calls the "general concept of wages”.

"It is real that most public sector workers earn a pittance, real starvation wages. But it is false that wages in private enterprise are extraordinary. Indeed, in some large companies that had good collective agreements, the employers pay over the official minimum wage, but this has been done at the cost of eliminating the general concept of wages, which includes bonuses, holiday bonus, night bonus, overtime, holidays, food bonus, among other wage components. Employers in these large companies are paying workers a single bonus without any impact on wages or benefits. While in businesses such as bakeries, butchers, restaurants, clothing shops and various service companies, where the largest workforce is concentrated, wages are as miserable as in the public sector," said Chirino.

But in addition to the destruction of wages in both public and private sectors, workers are subjected to other difficulties, which have been aggravated by the pandemic and the economic crisis it has brought about.

The leader of the PSL states that "many employers have been able to grant these bonuses that have increased wages relatively, thanks to the fact they have been systematically laying off a large number of workers for several months. In other words, they have drastically reduced their payrolls, an issue they have deepened in the pandemic. With fewer workers, they could give these bonuses. With the government's agreement, the disastrous role of the Cbst's government trade unionists and those from the CTV, who are linked to the employers' parties, and thanks to Memorandum 2792 approved by Maduro as part of its austerity package, the employers are doing practically whatever they want with the workers".

Chirino referred to the overexploitation of workers in the various private companies, and particularly the Polar Group, where workers perform functions for any of the Group's subsidiaries. In other words, fewer workers (multi-taskers) earn the same salary.

"With the hunger wages earned in the country, Polar and the majority of Venezuelan private companies and transnationals must be extracting the highest capital surplus value in the history of Venezuelan capitalism today," Chirino said.

"From the Socialism and Freedom Party we call on the workers to express themselves as a class in the companies where they work. The working class must demonstrate and mobilise in the face of the brutal crisis we are suffering, and lead the whole people in their struggle against this starving government and its austerity policy", Chirino stressed.

He concluded by stating that the PSL, in the context of this social catastrophe aggravated by the pandemic, proposes to fight for an Emergency Social Economic Plan that transfers the cost of the crisis and the health emergency to the government, the transnationals and large employers, forming an Emergency Social Fund through a special tax on large companies, transnationals and banks; the elimination of the contracts of mixed companies in the oil sector and the nationalisation of the entire oil industry, the confiscation and repatriation of the goods stolen and escaped by the corrupt, the non-payment of the foreign debt and the elimination of the repressive, military and luxury expenditure of the State. And with these resources, establish a salary that covers the basic basket and a quarantine income for informal workers, and promote a massive plan to import food, medicine and health inputs to confront the Covid-19. As well as demanding an end to the use of quarantine to criminalize struggles, and full freedom for all those detained for fighting and defending their rights".


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