The fourth meeting of the Social Dialogue Forum, scheduled for the first week of October, was suspended due to disagreements between the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the Venezuelan government. What impact does it have for the labor sector and what issues were pending?
Until this Thursday, October 12, there have been 573 days without a salary increase, thanks to a government policy that has plunged the minimum wage earned by public administration workers to only $3.73 (Bs 130). Although expectations are focused on an adjustment being decreed in the coming weeks, silence reigns from the government leadership.
Expectations of increase were supported by the fourth meeting of the Social Dialogue Forum, scheduled for the first week of October in Valencia. In this instance, representatives of the three actors in the labor sector would sit again: workers, private companies and the State. However, the meeting was suspended.
The points that would be discussed in this instance remained as pending matters for the future meeting, which would give continuity to a dialogue that began more than 18 months ago and that has had the supervision of the International Labor Organization (ILO), since not even The international organization has managed to get the parties to reach agreements.
*Read also: Will there be a salary increase in October? This is what employers and unions expect
To measure the impact that this body can have with respect to any decision made by the Executive regarding salaries, it is imperative to know its function and scope.
What is the Social Dialogue Forum?
The Social Dialogue Forum is an instance created to bring union organizations, employers’ entities and organizations of the Executive Branch to a dialogue table, with the aim of representing the interests of workers, private companies and the State, respectively.
In these meetings, various aspects related to the Venezuelan labor sector are discussed, but they specifically focus on the correction of certain practices that violate the provisions of agreements signed and ratified by Venezuela.
Therefore, the purpose of the Social Dialogue Forum is for the parties to be able to reach an agreement and prepare joint proposals that lead to compliance with these agreements.
Where does this instance come from?
The origin of this tripartite dialogue dates back to 2015, with a formal complaint presented by Fedecámaras before the ILO, denouncing the violation of multiple agreements related to wages, freedom of association, persecution and violence against workers, and the absence of understanding mechanisms. tripartite route.
The complaint was addressed by the ILO, which appointed a Commission of Inquiry composed of three independent members who visited Venezuela in 2018. After making the corresponding evaluation in the country, they prepared a report published in 2019, in which they highlighted the violation of three specific agreements, rejecting some others that the Fedecámaras delegates denounced in their complaint.
The report of the Commission of Inquiry urged the Government to resume compliance with these three conventions, while the ILO would monitor the situation with periodic reviews and discussion on the matter in each Board of Directors held by the entity every six months.
After two years of reviews in which the Government’s lack of effort to apply corrective measures was confirmed, the Board of Directors decided, by consensus of representatives of employers, workers and governments, to urge the Government of Nicolás Maduro to respect the agreements, recommending a dialogue social as a mechanism to find a solution. The Venezuelan delegation present at the Board of Directors had no choice but to accept.
1- Deplore that the Government does not comply with the recommendations of the Commission of Inquiry, the highest control body of the ILO.
2- Recognize the government’s effort to implement social dialogue.
3- install a social dialogue forum with ILO assistance and support
— Jorge Roig Navarro (@jorgeroig) November 6, 2021
What agreements does Venezuela violate?
For more than a decade, the Government committed violations of all kinds against labor law. Persecution against union members, imprisoned workers, kidnapping of unions, disrespect for collective agreements, starvation wages and a long etcetera.
In its report, the Commission of Inquiry evaluated all these problems and considered that there were only elements to affirm that the Government violated the following three agreements at that time:
- Convention 26: Relating to methods for setting minimum wages. It orders the establishment of mechanisms for setting minimum rates of workers’ wages in the event that there is no effective mechanism to do so or where wages are “exceptionally low.” It does not affect the amount of the salary, but requires establishing a formula when increasing it.
- Convention 87: On freedom of association and the protection of the right to organize. He indicates that union organizations can freely elect their representatives and that “public authorities must refrain from any intervention that tends to limit this right or hinder its legal exercise.”
- Convention 144: Related to tripartite consultation. It dictates that procedures must be implemented to ensure effective consultations between representatives of the Government, employers and workers to discuss issues such as non-compliance with ILO conventions and recommendations.
Has progress been made?
Since the installation of the Social Dialogue Forum, at the end of April 2022, no measures aimed at compliance with the agreements have been implemented.
In this period of time three sessions of the dialogue have been held. In each of them, a roadmap has been worked on to continue working on agreements within that instance.
The last session was held at the end of January 2023 and it was agreed to install technical tables that would work on the development of a mechanism for setting the minimum wage. They would have until April 30 to present the proposal to the Executive, but there was no formal update on the matter.
The Workers’ Union of the Independent Trade Union Alliance (ASI) confirmed to SuchWhich that, by consensus with other employers’ and workers’ organizations, in mid-September the proposal for the mechanism for setting the minimum wage was finally presented to the Ministry of Labor. They are still waiting for a response.
This proposal takes into account a list of indicators, such as the active labor payroll, along with that of retirees and pensioners, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), inflation, the food basket, economic growth and income derived from social missions.
The mechanism is the product of 13 sessions at the Social Dialogue Forum table dedicated to the discussion of the salary setting method.
Does the salary increase depend on the Social Dialogue Forum?
The power to decree the legal minimum wage belongs solely to the Executive Branch, therefore, nothing that is discussed in the Social Dialogue Forum can impose a decision on the Government.
Although the tripartite dialogue lacks the capacity to execute, they can submit proposals to the Executive, as they did with the salary setting mechanism.
Additionally, the centers that participate in the dialogue also contribute their proposals. ASI proposed an initial increase of $65 in the minimum wage, added to the bonuses already paid, to add at least $100 in comprehensive salary, an amount with which the public administration would escape the poverty line. The center considers that this would be a first step that would aim at the recovery of a living wage in the future.
For its part, the Bolivarian Socialist Workers’ Central (CBST) – close to Chavismo – has revealed since last month that it is in talks with the Executive to find a “salary solution” in October. Although his vice president, Orlando Pérez, did not go into details, he suggested that he would focus more on social benefits than on an increase in remuneration.
*Read also: Central Bolivariana discusses with Chavismo a “salary solution” for October
Why was the last meeting suspended?
The union centers were informed on October 4—one day before the fourth meeting was scheduled—that the meeting scheduled in Valencia would not take place.
According to the Confederation of Venezuelan Workers (CTV), there were conflicting positions between the representatives of the ILO and the Government. The international organization demanded greater effectiveness in the approaches and results, since the agreements have been delayed for too long.
At the moment, the meeting has not been definitively canceled, but a new date has not been scheduled to hold the meeting.
*Read also: Due to disagreements between the Executive and the ILO, the tripartite dialogue was suspended
What topics were left pending from the previous session?
The central axis of the next meeting still focuses on agreement 26, relating to the salary setting mechanism. The salary discussion is the one that generates the greatest interest from the population and, therefore, the main priority.
Another pending issue from the last meeting has to do with the appointment of an ILO expert who will be permanently in Venezuela, as agreed in the last Board of Directors of the entity. His figure would allow the processes in the country to be accelerated.
On the other hand, union movements emphasize the release of imprisoned workers and the cessation of persecution against union members, especially after workers Reynaldo Cortés, Alfonzo Meléndez, Alcides Bracho, Néstor Astudillo, Gabriel Blanco and Emilio Negrín were sentenced to 16 years in prison in a sentence that was based on a screenshot as the only evidence.
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