Venezuela: Thousands mark May Day, Maduro says 'workers must take over economic policies'

Thousands of workers took over the streets in Caracas to mark May Day. Photo via TeleSUR TV.

Thousands of Venezuelans took part in May Day rallies on May 1 to mark the international workers' day and commemorate the achievements of the country's pro-poor Bolivarian revolution.

Speaking to May Day celebrations in Caracas, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro said: “Now is time for workers to lead the economic policy of the country.”

Maduro pointed out that the Bolivarian revolution -- as the process of transformation aimed to create “socialism for the 21st century” is known, had increased the number of unions, as well as workers' councils.

“I believe this is a great achievement of the revolution, to have reinforced the union-channeled demands of the working class,” he said.

Milagros Garcia, a worker who joined the May 1 rally in Caracas, said: “There is so much we have achieved. I'm here to celebrate what we've done with hard work and dedication.”

Garcia was one of thousands of ordinary Venezuelans who flooded the streets of Caracas with an air of celebration. Many of the city's main plazas were packed with government supporters wearing red shirts, and waving Venezuelan flags.

One of the main achievements for workers was Venezuela's new labour law, which was approved in 2012, and came into effect in 2013. The new law has become a cornerstone for the government's labour policy, and has been praised as a major advance for Venezuelan workers.

The law established a 40-hour maximum work week, guaranteed maternity leave, banned unfair dismissal and outlawed outsourcing and other exploitative practices.

Mothers are entitled to six weeks pre-natal leave, and 20 post-natal – meaning Venezuelans now enjoy the world's third-longest maternity leave. Fathers are also entitled to two weeks leave.

The law also guarantees all workers retirement pensions, including home makers and the self employed. The government has described the reforms as the “most advanced labor law in the world”.

Maduro will meet with the Presidential Council of the Working Class in coming days to define the policies needed to defeat the economic war launched by the United States and Venezuela’s right-wing opposition. This war aims to destabilise the country’s democratically elected socialist government.

Maduro also announced a 30% of rise in the minimum wage. During the past 16 years of the Bolivarian Revolution, workers' salaries have been raised 29 times. This compared with nine times during the neoliberal governments that ruled between 1974-1998.

[Compiled from TeleSUR English.]

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