ILO Criticises Venezuela for Raising Minimum Wage

Venezuela is being ostracised in every possible conceivable way by Western governments and institutions short of an actual military invasion, although threats to that effect have also been made by the US government.

 

The newest threat has been issued by the International Labour Organisation (ILO). The organisation reported on March 21: “ILO Governing Body decides to appoint Commission of Inquiry for Venezuela.”

 

The ILO inquiry “refers to the non-observance of ILO Conventions No. 26 (Minimum Wage-Fixing Machinery Convention, 1928), No. 87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise Convention, 1948) and No. 144 (Tripartite Consultation (International Labour Standards), 1976).”

 

But here is what would make Karl Marx rise from his grave and shout again, “Workers of all lands, unite!” (words inscribed on his tombstone). The complaint “alleges lack of consultation with Fedecamaras on laws that affect the labour and economic interests of the employers, and the adoption of numerous increases to the minimum wage without consultation with employer and worker representatives.”

 

It goes further to state, “The [ILO] Governing Body has discussed this complaint six times since 2015 and had asked the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela on several occasions to take measures to put an end to the alleged interference, aggression and stigmatisation directed against Fedecamaras, its affiliated organisations and its leaders.”

 

Fedecamaras is the Venezuelan Federation of Chambers of Commerce and Production, that represents the interests of Venezuelan business and corporations. That is a legitimate role in a country where the private sector still has a strong presence, which is fully recognised by a government that is otherwise labeled as “socialist”, “communist”, “authoritarian”, and “dictatorial”.

 

However, Fedecamaras had more ambitious interests than trade and commerce for its “affiliated organisations” when former Fedecámaras president Pedro Carmona became de facto president of Venezuela for 47 hours during the failed coup against the government of president Hugo Chavez in April 2002.

 

Since its founding in 1919, the ILO has opened 12 Commissions of Inquiry. Of those, only 3 involved Latin American countries: Chile (1975) during the early days of the Pinochet regime repression; the Dominican Republic (1983) related to the employment of workers from Haiti; and Nicaragua (1987). Interestingly, the inquiry instituted against Nicaragua refers exactly to the same issues as Venezuela today; keep in mind that in 1987, Daniel Ortega of the Sandinista Liberation Front was president.

 

The specific violations investigated in Nicaragua were “murder, physical aggression, and torture” among others. But the ILO has remained silent at the slaughter of more than 2,800 labour leaders and union members since 1986 in Colombia. The danger for union leaders continues to this day. According to a report by pulitzercenter.org,  “As a result of attacks on unions and other pressures, the percentage of unionised workers in Colombia has dropped from 15 percent 20 years ago to about 4 percent today.”

 

What is striking in the case of Venezuela is that those same corporations that claim “aggression and stigmatisation directed against Fedecamaras, its affiliated organisations and its leaders,” are responsible for lobbying for economic sanctions, hoarding of goods, creating an induced inflationary process through a parallel manipulated exchange rate, all of which is undermining the purchasing power of the Venezuelan working class.

 

The critics call the manufactured economic crisis in Venezuela a “humanitarian crisis”. If that were indeed so, why are they critical of the Venezuelan government’s move to increase the minimum wage level to protect the most vulnerable population, why are they dubbing it inappropriate? Paradoxically, the main drivers of the economic crisis maintain that they were not consulted, and claim to be the victims of a labour transgression.

 

The Canadian government absurdly issued a news release stating that the “Maduro regime robs its people of their fundamental democratic and human rights, and denies them assistance to meet basic humanitarian needs.” Yet, in a totally  contradictory statement, it announced support for the ILO inquiry “to examine allegations that the Maduro regime failed to comply with international labour conventions on . . . setting of minimum wages.”

 

This may be a rare case where a government increase of the minimum wage is considered an offense because it affects “the labour and economic interests of the employers”. The real crime, however, is being committed by applying sanctions against Venezuela. Alfred de Zayas, a UN independent expert for the promotion of an international democratic and equitable order, stated that “it is time” for Venezuela to ask the International Criminal Court “for an investigation into the crimes against humanity committed by the United States for imposing sanctions against it.”

(Nino Pagliccia is an activist & freelancer writer based in Vancouver)

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