By Tamara Pearson – Venezuelanalysis.com
Mérida, February 7th 2011 (Venezuelanalysis.com) – In a nationally televised address on Friday to commemorate the 19th anniversary of the famous failed coup attempt led by himself, President Hugo Chavez expressed his support for the current workers’ conflict in a Venezuelan Coca-Cola plant.
“If Coca-Cola doesn’t want to comply with the constitution and the law, well, we can live without Coca-Cola,” he said.
“Coca-Cola isn’t indispensable,” he continued, to cheers from the crowd, “Who said Coca-Cola is necessary in order to live?” he added, then suggested some Venezuelan drinks, such as guava juice, that are better.
Chavez was speaking in Valencia, the capital of Carabobo state, where 1,230 workers are striking in a bottling and distribution plant of Coca Cola Femsa. They began the strike on Friday 15 January in order to demand a fair collective agreement, pay raises, food tickets, night shift bonuses, and a dining room. Workers currently earn 78 bolivares per day (US$ 18) and are asking for 45 bolivares (US$ 10.46) more.
The strike has the support of Venezuela’s National Union of Workers (Unete) and the ministry for work has been talking to the workers and to management
Private Venezuelan press report that the strike is causing “scarcity” of the product in the country. However, workers activated two of the water production lines, to avoid scarcity of bottled water because they consider it a necessity.
According to the plant’s union secretary, the company has met with the workers along with a representative of the ministry for work and from the Work Inspectorate, but the company has refused to meet any of the workers’ demands, apart from offering to increase funeral benefits.
Just a few days ago, the company said it had offered 30% pay rise increases (just above the rate of inflation), but the union refused it.