The 34,000 employees who work at the Polar Business food production conglomerate in Venezuela have denounced what they describe as a violation of their labour and social rights.
The workers accused the company of trying to destabilise the country in the run up to the presidential elections on October 7.
Polls show that President Hugo Chavez is far ahead of his right-wing rival, Henrique Capriles Radonski. Chavez is campaigning on a platform of deepening the socialist transformation of Venezuela.
Trade unions at the company released a statement that said: “It is evident that the Polar conglomerate is carrying out actions against the workers and trying to create a social explosion within the workplace to destabilise the country and undoubtedly damage the electoral process.”
Workers denounced a “disproportionate and arbitrary” rise of 27-37% in the cost of the company’s insurance policy, which covers maternity, surgery and hospitalisation. They cited this rise as a “violation of article 80 of the Law on Company Insurance which states that tariffs must be previously approved by the national superintendent’s insurance office”.
Workers demanded the company respect their rights as established in the new workers’ labour law, which was passed in May by Chavez.
“It is essential to make the public aware of the different ways in which workers’ labour and social rights are being violated by the Polar Conglomerate,” the statement said.
Workers criticised what they described as a “disrespectful” way of dealing with the issue of paying workers their social benefit bonus. This is calculated through years of service multiplied by their final wage.
Workers complained that the information relating to the calculation of the bonus had not been made available to the various trade unions.
They also reported that there were restrictions and discrimination being carried out against union activity, particularly at Pepsi Cola. The workers accused Pepsi of prohibiting workers from “discussing” workers’ collective contracts and agreements, which “violates article 96 of the Republic’s Constitution”.
“This damaging attitude will not prevent the employees from going out on October 7 and voting in their masses for our socialist project,” said the document.
[First published by the Venezuelan news Agency. Translated and edited by Rachael Boothroyd for Venezuela Analysis.]