Venezuela: New labour law 'part of transition to socialism'

Venezuela's new Labour Law for Workers came into effect on May 7, guaranteeing shorter working hours, longer maternity leave and pensions for all Venezuelans.

Described by the Venezuelan government as the “most advanced labour law in the world”, the law reduces the working week from 44 hours to 40, and requires that employers provide two consecutive days a week off.

When the law came into effect, labour minister Maria Iglesias said the new working hours are part of the process towards a “just distribution of wealth”.

The next day, Carabobo state labour affairs committee president Jose Joaquin Vargas hailed the law as an important part of the transition from “capitalism to socialism”. Vice president of the National Federation of Public Sector Workers Franklin Rondon told VTV on May 5 that the law was “historic”.

“We are in a historic moment, in 14 years the achievements we have obtained for workers are numerous; we have achieved much more than in the past 40 years,” Rondon said.

Vargas urged workers to ensure their employers and unions act in accordance with the law.

In the next six weeks, the government will inspect workplaces to ensure employers adhere to the new requirements. Employers were told earlier in the year that they would need to make any necessary changes before May 7. However, Iglesias said that day that inspections over the next six weeks will be “corrective in nature”.

The minister warned that penalties will be imposed on employers who fail to adhere to the law after June 15.

However, workers are already reporting breaches of the new laws. In Miranda state, employees of processed meat manufacturer Industrias Alimenticias de Corralito (Inacor) have denounced their boss. A spokesperson for the workers, Peggy Serrano, said management made a series of surprise changes to the timetable that could result in employees being forced to work overtime.

Along with establishing new working hours, the law prohibits unfair dismissal, outsourcing, guarantees the right to work for both women and people with disabilities and increases maternity leave.

Under the law, Venezuela now has the world's third-longest maternity leave scheme. Mothers are entitled to six weeks pre-natal leave, and 20 post-natal. Fathers are also entitled to two weeks paternal leave.

Under the law, the same conditions apply to parents who adopt a child under three years old.

All workers are also now entitled to retirement pensions, including full-time mothers and the self-employed.

The law is the result of nearly a decade of discussions in the national assembly and the labour movement.

Late former president Hugo Chavez, when he approved the law in April last year, said: “In more than 200 years of republican history I am absolutely positive that there has never been a work law … that has been debated so much as this one.”

[Reprinted from Venezuela Analysis.]