Friday, 13 May 2011

Venezuela to increase minimum wage

Venezuela: President Chavez announces 25% increase in minimum wage
Source: Correo del Orinoco International, No 61, April 29, 2011.

An additional 45% increase was announced for those working in the public sector at all different pay grades and levels, marking the first increase for public servants earning above minimum wage since 2008.

In celebration of International Workers’ Day on May 1st, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced last Monday that residents earning the nation’s monthly minimum wage of 1,224 bolivars ($284) will soon see a 25 percent increase in their salary as well as other, non-monetary benefits designed to further enhance living standards for the population.

“For the twelfth consecutive time, we are announcing a salary increase. Here, we aren’t going around cutting wages or pensions” like in other countries, Chavez said during a Ministerial Cabinet meeting that took place in the presidential palace of Miraflores. The raise will be divided into two stages. The first hike, of 15 percent, will be made effective as of May 1st and the second, of 10 percent, will be allocated to workers beginning in September.

As a result of the raise, the total monthly minimum of those working in Venezuela will now be set at 1,548 bolivars ($360), one of the highest in Latin America.

According to the Venezuelan head of state, the measure will also increase incomes for more than 2 million pensioners and will benefit nearly 350 thousand state workers currently earning the minimum wage. Also benefiting from the measure will be nearly 100 thousand economically disadvantaged women who are granted 80 percent of the minimum wage salary through the government program Madres del Barrio or Mothers of the Shantytowns.

The program, first started in 2006 by presidential decree, “is directed towards all women who perform house work and have dependents (children, parents or other family members) whose families do not receive an income or whose income is less than the cost of the basic food basket”, a government website states.

“Taking into account that house work should be compensated”, the site continues, “Madres del Barrio recognizes the value of the labor that women carry out in the domestic realm”.

In addition to the monetary increase, other benefits including food tickets used in the nation’s grocery stores in order to guarantee the affordability of basic staples will be added to the wage hike. Venezuela’s Food Law now mandates that all private companies provide their workers, irrespective of the number of employees, a basic food ticket package. Previous food ticket measures exempted employers with less than 20 workers from providing the additional benefit.

More than 5.7 billion bolivars ($1.32 billion) of state money has been allocated for the new increases as vacations and a yearly three month salary bonus, Chavez affirmed, will continue to be effective for all state employees. “We’ve been working a lot, calculating figures and looking for a way to sustain our decisions from the point of view of incomes and how to responsibly continue to raise the living standards for our working families”, Chavez said.

During the Ministerial Cabinet meeting on Monday, Labor Minister, Maria Cristina Iglesia, reminded the public that the raise in the minimum wage is effective for all sectors of the Venezuelan economy. “The minimum wage is obligatory. No active worker can earn less than this salary in the public or the private sector and no pensioner can earn less that the legally established minimum wage. Workers must demand compliance with this measure”, she said.

On Tuesday, the Venezuelan President also met with workers in a major event celebrating workers’ advances during the Bolivarian Revolution. During the mass act, Chavez announced an additional 45 percent increase for public service workers at all pay grades, a step not made since 2008. “The increase on the pay scale is 45 percent. This raise I’m announcing is for all pay grades, 45% above the current salary level. This is justice, and this will contribute to creating more consciousness and will help provide more resources for the country and for our families”, exclaimed the Venezuelan head of state.

Also during the Cabinet meeting, President Chavez officially signed off on the delivery of 46 new housing units for residents left homeless after torrential rains flooded parts of the country late last year. “It’s very beautiful what’s happening. We’re taking steps in the direction that we set for ourselves in December. We’ve told refugees that they will leave the shelters and will be given houses, dignified houses. We set a goal and we’re achieving it”, the head of state said. The apartments form part of a new building built by the Caracas Metro located downtown in the capital city.

The beneficiaries of the apartments had been taking shelter in the presidential palace of Miraflores since December when Chavez ordered the opening of his residence to the displaced. According to Haiman El Troudi, president of the state owned Caracas Metro company, many refugees with construction experience worked to make the new building, called the Three Roots, a reality. El Troudi informed that in addition to the construction, many refugees who organized themselves in Socially Productive Units with government assistance, worked on the 250 wooden doors that were installed in the new building.

Many of these workers will continue to have employment opportunities as the government ramps up its housing construction efforts, the Metro president said. Providing affordable housing to refugees and the public at large, Chavez reminded the viewing public last Monday, will continue to be a foremost priority of his government as it seeks to build 2 million new homes by 2017.

With respect to costs, the majority of homes will be subsidized by the state. “Those families that receive housing and have an income less than the minimum wage will have a subsidy of up to 100 percent the cost of the home. If the family possesses an income equivalent to the minimum wage, they will pay 20 percent of the homes and if the family has an income twice that of the minimum wage, they will need to pay 50% [the cost of the home]”, Chavez specified.

The Venezuelan President also renewed his call to turn housing complexes into economically viable production centers with employment and education opportunities for residents. “We have to remember that it’s a commitment and that the construction of socio-productive spaces is very important. It’s from there that people can work in textiles, food and other productive activities for the benefit of all of us”, he stated.