Venezuelan car workers have slammed multinational car manufacturers for cutting back production in the country. The country's largest trade union federation has called for the industry to be nationalised.
Accusing multinational car companies of being “imperialist”, the National Workers' Union (UNT) has called on the government to place car factories under worker control.
The UNT said: “It's clear that building socialism relies on the working class, indeed the workers' control of the factories.”
Toyota started a six-week shut down at its Cumana plant in Sucre state on February 13. It cited difficulties in importing parts. The factory is a major part of Sucre's economy.
About 1300 workers have been left without work due to the stoppage. A further 1500 indirect jobs have also been affected, the company said.
An internal Toyota memo circulated by Venezuelan media in February said the company is in an “extremely difficult situation”.
The shutdown has been criticised by President Nicolas Maduro, who accused the company of exhibiting a “parasitic bourgeois mentality”. The president said Toyota is exaggerating for political reasons.
“The only thing these little managers want is dollars, dollars and more dollars,” Maduro said.
Union organiser Jose Marcano told private broadcaster Globovision that Toyota has “violated contractual benefits because of a lack of [foreign] currency”. Marcano urged the government to take action to end the cut-backs.
Meanwhile, Ford and General Motors have both indicated they will also be rolling back operations, citing difficulties with Venezuela's currency exchange system and high inflation.
Gilberto Troya, the head of the workers' union at Ford's plant in Valencia, Carabobo, said the company made the decision to cut production without consulting employees. Troya said workers had not been officially informed of a decision to only operate the factory three days a week.
General secretary of the car workers' union (FUTAAC) Christian Pereira said workers were “distressed” by the sector-wide cut backs. He said the foreign companies are “part of the economic war” in Vnezuela.
Maduro has accused many companies of seeking to undermine his government. He has blamed recent high levels of scarcity and inflation on an “economic war” waged by parts of the private sector.
Last December, Maduro moved to fix car prices in Venezuela in a bid to slow inflation and tackle speculative pricing.
[Abridged from Venezuela Analysis.]