Wednesday, 9 May 2007

Venezuelan Workers Demand Nationalization of SIDOR Steel Plant

Venezuelan Workers Demand Nationalization of SIDOR Steel Plant
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
By: Chris Carlson - Venezuelanalysis. com

Mérida, May 9, 2007 (venezuelanalysis. com)— Workers held protests
outside the SIDOR steel plant in Puerto Ordaz yesterday, demanding
that the government nationalize the company. Last Thursday, Venezuelan
President Hugo Chavez had warned that he would nationalize the
Argentinian- owned company if they didn't meet the needs of domestic
industry instead of exporting to foreign customers. It appears,
however, that the government has reached an agreement with the company
today, allowing the company to remain in private hands.

Workers belonging to the labor union of SIDOR workers gathered outside
the plant yesterday, blocking traffic of a nearby road. According to
an official of the labor union, workers did not allow entry to the
plant starting in the early morning hours.

"As workers we are demanding a definitive answer to the situation,"
said Ulmaro Ramos, secretary of the union, on a local radio station. A
spokesperson for the union stated that the workers are in favor of the
president's intention to nationalize the company.

"We are supporting the president's announcement about the possibility
to liberate the company which has been subjected to slavery of
neo-liberal capitalism for the last 8 years," said José Meléndez,
member of the union organization Alianza Sindical de Sidor. Meléndez
said that when the plant was privatized there were 11,600 employees
and that now there are only 5,700 workers who are "exploited and
without any kind of benefits."

Another union, Unidad Matancer, of the political party Causa R
demanded that the government take the nationalization even further and
give the majority of the company shares to the workers of the plant.

"We are not divided and we completely agree that the president should
acquire the control of this company so that it can eventually be
passed on to the control of the workers," said Meléndez.

SIDOR is the largest steel plant in the Andean region with a capacity
of 4.2 million tons annually. The company was state property since its
formation in 1962 until 1998 when it was privatized. 60 percent of the
shares were acquired by a consortium named Amazonia, made up by the
Argentinean firm Techint as a majority partner, as well as the Mexican
Hylsamex, the Brazilian Uniminas, and the Venezuelan company Sivensa
as minority partners. The Venezuelan government retained 20 percent of
the shares and the remaining 20 percent were given to the workers of
the plant.

SIDOR produces wire and pipes, including the kind of pipe that the
Venezuelan national industry needs, and according to company reports,
63 percent of the production is directed to the Venezuelan market and
37 percent to exports.

The government, however, maintains that they have to import the piping
that they need for the oil industry from as far off as China. Chávez
warned SIDOR last week that if they did not supply the domestic market
with the needed products, that he would put in place a law to require
them to supply all Venezuelan demand before exporting any production.

"I have made the order to call Mr. Paolo Rocca (president of Techint)
and I'm going to tell him: We are going to make a law, because you
have to guarantee to me first, before exporting a single ton of steel,
that all the Venezuelan processing companies are supplied," said
Chávez in his televised address last Thursday.

Chávez went on to say that if the president of the private company did
not agree then he would nationalize the company and the state would
take control of it.

It appears, however, that the Venezuelan government and the
Argentinean company Techint may have come to an agreement today.
According to initial reports, the company has agreed to the conditions
demanded by the Venezuelan government. Those conditions include:

* Lowering the prices for the domestic market between 15 and 20
* Switching production more toward the domestic market in order to
substitute imports
* Paying a higher price for the iron used in the steel plant than
it receives from the state-owned company Ferrominera.

The private steel plant receives the raw material it uses in steel
production from a state-owned iron mining company that has, over the
last 8 years, sold iron to the private company at a subsidized rate.
The agreement with the private company should be finalized by next
week when the president of the company, Paolo Rocca, is expected to
travel to Caracas to sign the final document.

No comments: