Sidor Workers Strike, National Guard Out

- Thursday, March 29, 2001

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Workers of Venezuelan integrated steelmaker Sidor are staging their threatened 48-hour strike, and local newspapers reported the National Guard is on the streets.

Sidor unions called members out after a breakdown in government-sponsored talks yesterday.

The unions want to negotiate a collective agreement, but the Ciudad Guayana-based company wants to pay an eight-day bonus in lieu and then renegotiate the collective agreement when international steel demand and prices have picked up.

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The stoppage started 11pm last night, local time, and follows two 24-hour downing of tools as part of the dispute.

A Sidor spokesperson told BNamericas.com: "There was a possibility of a counter offer from the union in yesterday morning's talks, but it proved not to be so."

The labor ministry condemned the strike and asked for a guarantee that those who wanted to work could enter the steel plant, something which did not happen during the previous stoppages. Fresh government-sponsored talks are planned for next Wednesday.

The collective agreement covers 4,000 Sidor workers. The other 2,000 employees were expected to work during the strike. Most of the 4,000 contract workers not employed directly by Sidor are expected to support the union action, the company spokesperson told BNamericas.com.

Meanwhile, El Nacional (Venezuela) reported that President Hugo Chavez had called out the National Guard in response to a wave of strikes in the country - Sidor, state oil company PDVSA, teachers and electrical workers. Some estimates say up to 300,000 are on strike.

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