Britain's largest union backs Venezuela's democracy

July 14, 2014

Unite the Union, the largest union in Britain and Europe, has unanimously passed a motion supporting the Venezuelan government of President Nicolas Maduro and re-affirming its support for the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign.

The motion was presented during Unite’s June 30 to July 4 policy conference in Liverpool.

Commenting on moves towards US sanctions on Venezuela in recent weeks, the mover of the motion said: “One can only conclude that some in the US share the Venezuelan opposition’s aim to oust the Maduro government”.

The mover said: “Many of us have been inspired by the democratic and progressive social changes taking place in Latin America in recent years.

“Led by Venezuela under Hugo Chavez, inspired by the example of Cuba, working people and the poor in numerous countries have seen life-transforming changes in places such as Bolivia, Nicaragua, and as this motion highlights, most recently, Ecuador.

“Here, a huge public spending program has created jobs and growth, combining with improved workers’ rights to bring millions out of poverty.

“Nowhere can this be seen more than in Venezuela, where so much has been achieved in recent years, including arguably the most progressive labour law in the world.

“In recent months, we have seen a wave of violence by extreme elements of Venezuela’s right-wing opposition aimed at ousting the elected government.

“Tragically, 42 Venezuelans have died following the explicit call for the undemocratic and unconstitutional ousting of Venezuela’s elected government. The principal causes are lethal opposition violence and the use of deliberately dangerous street barricades.

“In a wave of terror against the population, government and public service buildings ― from hospitals to universities to public broadcasters ― have been attacked.

“Of particular importance to conference is that our sister trade unions in transport have been attacked by far-right elements due to their commitment to the revolution.

“Workers in the Caracas metro and on buses have faced dozens of violent attacks ― we must stand by them in defending their progress and calling for peace.

“We need to remember, though, that this tiny minority are not without assistance ― they receive regular verbal support from the US as well as millions of dollars.

“US sanctions have now been proposed by the Republican right and passed in Congress.

“Perhaps that’s not surprising as Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world. But it should not be tolerated. Venezuelans have the right to choose their own government free from outside interference.

“International solidarity can help to defeat these attempts to overturn social progress.

“Let’s loudly say No More Pinochets in Latin America!”

* * *

'The spectre of a coup is clear and present'

The text of the motion:

Conference is disappointed that Andres Arauz, Ecuador’s Vice Minister for Economic and Social Development, last week was unable to obtain a visa to visit Britain. Conference is concerned that the inability of many intended visitors seeking support and solidarity to obtain entry visas is an unhealthy development.

Ecuador’s Citizen’s Revolution ― led by President Rafael Correa ― is challenging the ideas behind austerity economics, a huge program of public investment is the motor of Ecuador’s economic growth and its building of a more inclusive society.

Four times more is spent on health and education than a decade ago after Ecuador scrapped the illegal debt owed to international financial agencies and devoted this instead to public services.

It is not surprising that there has been a failed right-wing coup attempt led by rogue elements in the police that tried to kill President Correa.

Cuba, Venezuela and Ecuador are regional leaders in promoting an alternative to US-imposed neoliberal policies contained within the Free Trade Area of the Americas treaty by the creation of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America ― Peoples’ Trade Treaty (ALBA-TPA).

Like Ecuador, Venezuela has also suffered an attempted coup to depose the progressive government of the late President Hugo Chavez.

Conference notes how reminiscent of the unrest in Chile that preceded the 1973 coup against Salvador Allende’s Popular Unity government is the current right-wing sabotage and destabilisation operating in parts of Venezuela.

Conference expresses its full support for the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) government of Nicolas Maduro and the Bolivarian Socialist Workers Central (CBST) trade union confederation in the struggle against the extreme right wing attempting a new coup d’etat in Venezuela.

The spectre of coup d’etat is a clear and present threat to much of progressive Latin America.

Conference believes that support for progressive Latin America is best channelled through the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign and Friends of Ecuador and calls on the union to continue its supportive work with these solidarity groups ― which will alert the union to issues with visas for appropriate action.

* * *

Venezuela's progressive labour law

In support of a motion, the following information was presented to the Unite the Union:

Part of [former Venezuelan president] Hugo Chavez’s legacy is that Venezuela now has progressive economic and social policies and respects trade union rights, with the Labour Law a vital part of this.

The law was based on six months of consultation with working people and their organisations by the Venezuelan government. More than 20,000 different proposals were submitted.

There are many positive aspects to the new law. A few key points that have particular relevance to Britain include:

• Enshrining the right to form trade unions, trade union freedom, the right to strike and take secondary and solidarity action;
• Recognition of the right to collective bargaining, and an obligation on employers to negotiate with trade unions;
• An end to outsourcing and the use of agency labour to undermine terms and conditions;
• The right to social security ― including pensions ― for all workers for the first time;
• A shorter working week;
• Extended maternity and paternity leave;
• The prohibiting of all discrimination; and a positive obligation to promote and support employment for disabled workers;

• The right to training and education for all workers.

On May Day this year, increases in pensions, the minimum wage and public sector wages were announced, further improving the lives of millions.

Of course, such change has powerful enemies. The old ruling elite of Venezuela, who left so many living in terrible poverty, want the former status quo returned. They have international friends in this aim ― including the United States.

Venezuela does however, have many friends, especially ourselves in the trade union movement, and we can be confident that in the future our solidarity can help our Venezuelan comrades build further on our advances in workers’ rights and social inclusion.

[Visit the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign for more information.]

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