The Guardian 23 April, 2008
Venezuela nationalises Sidor steel
Venezuelan Vice-President Ramón Carrizalez closed a last ditch meeting on April 9 between officials of Venezuela’s giant Sidor steel plant and representatives of the United Steel Industry Workers Union (SUTISS) with the announcement that Sidor would be re-nationalised.
Sidor, state owned for 33 years and debt ridden, became the property of Techint, an Argentinean-Italian corporation, after the sell-off by the Rafael Caldera government in 1997. It employs 4,000 permanent employees and 9,000 non-unionised, outsourced contract workers.
The workers’ struggle gathered steam in January 2007 when President Hugo Chávez proclaimed "nationalisation of everything that was privatised". Since then nationalisation has encompassed telecommunications, electricity and oil companies, and recently the cement industry.
SUTISS has demanded nationalisation of the Sidor plant along with increased wages and benefits and incorporation of contract workers into the company’s permanent work force. Sidor owners escaped nationalisation last year by agreeing to prioritise steel products for Venezuela’s domestic market.
Two months of periodic work stoppages culminated on March 14 in violent National Guard repression. Rallies, plant meetings and referenda reached a crescendo on April 4 when SUTISS declared another strike and workers marched to a university in Bolivar where President Hugo Chávez was speaking at graduation ceremonies.
Two days later, Chávez denounced the company on national television for violating a law from May 1, 2007, prohibiting the subcontracting of workers and said the company would again be nationalised.
Attention turns now to negotiating terms of ownership. Analysts see a shift from the present 60-20-20 distribution of ownership among company, state and workers, respectively, to an exchange by the state and Techint of the 60/20 percent shares, with workers holding onto their 20 percent portion.
Union negotiations on wages and pensions will continue with government officials.
People’s Weekly World