VHeadline Venezuela News reports: The Industry & Mines (Mibam) Ministry's broken promises have put labor-industry relations in the underdeveloped southeastern region of Venezuela under terminal strain. Union leaders say the massive industrial region of Guayana is basically being strangled to death and any prospect of salvation for the multimillion-dollar industries and for hundreds of thousands of workers is uniquely in the hands of one person,Mibam Minister Rofolfo Sanz. He also holds down an executive role as president & CEO of the giant heavy industry conglomerate, The Venezuelan Guyana Corporation (CVG) and its multiple holding companies.
Sanz is already under the greatest of executive strains in his attempts to handle the nation's steel and aluminum industries, but is also beset by gargantuan problems associated with the nation's industrial mining resources, while small-scale and artesanal miners continue to pollute the rain forest and rivers in their feverish search for gold and precious stones to eke out a survival thousands of kilometers away from the nation's capital, Caracas. The political scene is also plagued with labor unrest as the top executives performs a balancing act, trying to get central government to provide the financial resources to pay existing liabilities to many thousands of CVG workers and to attempt to reactivate industries that have historically (over the last half century) been mismanaged by corrupt politicians and their friends.
Local newspaper reports say that Minister Sanz has been unable to deal effectively with a challenging crisis which has seen CVG subsidiaries decline to virtual paralysis with the follow-on result that the region is seeing the greatest degree of labor unrest. Elsewhere in Caracas and Maracaibo, there is increased economic activity and security for the state-run corporations' workforce.
Labor unions say that many production units attracted to Guayana have been left to their own resources and if the government (indicating the Basic Industries & Mines Ministry as having the primary responsibility) does not get its act together quickly and effectively the nation's capacity for the production of aluminum and steel products will simply vanish down the drain. Meanwhile, the crazy situation is that Venezuelan-made aluminum and steel products are fetching higher prices on world markets and international demand is growing fast. The loss or significant reduction in such exports would also be a striking blow to the national economy.
The blame is put squarely on the shoulders of government agencies responsible for safeguarding the regional welfare of the Guayana region where the Venezuelan Guayana Corporation (CVG) is the principle employer under the tutelage of the Ministry of Basic Industries & Mines, also headed by Rodolfo Sanz.
While Minister Sanz has told thousands of CVG employees and their families that he is grappling with serious problems to identify and obtain necessary resources, he has also asked the locals to be patient and allow him a further fifteen days to come up with cash. Unions workers and pensioners say they've heard a string of similar promises form Mr. Sanz over the eight months that he has been in charge of Mibam and the CVG ... those promises, though well-meant, have simply been broken at Sanz' convenience and the thousands of workers who are living on the breadline waiting and waiting for subsistence payments say they're fed up with the incessant delays and want an immediate conclusion.
Nevertheless, Minister Sanz says he has asked President Hugo Chavez Frias himself to get involved and to resolve the basic problems of both workers and businesses in the region. What it boils down to is the appropriation of the necessary funds from the central to regional government and the CVG. This, in itself, can be achieved with the single stroke of a pen by President Hugo Chavez, but critics say he is too much engaged in buying billions of dollars of military equipment and supplies from Russia and buying debt bonds from Argentina as well as donating funds to Bolivia and Ecuador to bother with "puny" matters such as funding the rebirth of the nation's strategic heavy industries and the gold and diamond mining sectors that have been basically a wasteland for the last fifty years.
As early as February this year, Minister Sanz had visited CVG-Alcasa to tour the complex and identify existing problems in the aluminium industry. Undertakings were given and promises made but the situation has remained the same with little hope of resolution in the immediate future. The situation remains the same at CVG-Venalum, CVG-Bauxilum and at CVG-Carbonorca where new technology and massive investments are needed to put production back online again. The problem is exacerbated by labor union problems where a 90-day deadline for an end to negotiations has passed without any sign of resolution and workers still without millions in back pay and welfare benefits. Some of the debts have remained unpaid for the last ten years!
The nationalization of Siderurgica del Orinoco (SIDOR) only brought more problems down 0n the shoulders of the luckless Minister of Basic Industries & Mines when the Venezuelan State took over the massive steel mill on April 9. Multiple problems still remain unsolved, complicated by issues surrounding the hiring of outside contract workers and errors made in calculations of wages, benefits and vacations payments. More than 8,000 direct workers and a further 2,000 out-sourced workers are still waiting for a Mibam commission's evaluation, which was promised within three months of the signing of a collective contract.
Sanz says he is endeavoring to find the money to save an operational and environmental crisis at CVG-Bauxilum, and to pay all labor liabilities to the workers at CVG-Bauxilum by year's end. Labor leaders, however, are saying they will not be so foolhardy as to hold their breath in anticipation this time either!