Unite, Britain’s largest union, passes a motion in support of President Maduro & Venezuela

Unite the Union, the largest union in Britain and Europe, this week unanimously passed a motion to support the government of President Nicolas Maduro and re-affirming their support for the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign. The motion was presented during Unite’s Annual Conference, which this year was held in Liverpool. The text of the motion and notes of the two speeches proposing and seconding the motion can be found in full below.

Commenting on moves towards US sanctions on Venezuela in recent weeks, the mover of the motion explained that, “One can only conclude that some in the US share the Venezuela opposition’s aim to oust the Maduro government,” adding that whilst “perhaps that’s not surprising as Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world…  it should not be tolerated” and that “Venezuelans have the right to choose their own government free from outside interference.”

Additionally, its seconder added that, “Venezuela does however, have many friends, especially ourselves in the trade union movement, and we can be confident that in the future our solidarity can help our Venezuelan comrades build further on our advances in workers’ rights and social inclusion.”

The motion “expresses its full support for the PSUV government of Nicolás Maduro and the CBST trade union confederation in the struggle against the extreme right wing attempting a new coup d’état in Venezuela” and adds, ” The spectre of coup d’état is a clear and present threat to much of progressive Latin America.”

A fringe meeting on Cuba and Venezuela was also held as part of the conference, with the participation of Esther Armenteros, Cuban Ambassador in London, Álvaro Sánchez, Venezuela’s Charge d’affaires, who thanked Unite for  their “tremendous support” for Venezuela and the VSC< Bernie Wentworth of Thompson’s solicitors and Len McCluskey, General Secretary of Unite the Union. Opening and chairing the fringe Unite Assistant General Secretary Steve Turner noted the need to rebut media myths and representations of Venezuela, and oppose proposed US sanctions.

Describing Venezuela’s elected President Nicolas Maduro a former bus drive and trade union leader, as “one of us,” Len McCluskey reflected on recent months and explained that “President Maduro is under threat from the Axis of Evil, which attempts to undermine the democratic wishes of the Venezuelan people,” and concluded by expressing his support for the “wonderful work” of VSC in defence of democracy and social progress in Venezuela.

MOTION TEXT: Emergency Motion on Latin America

Conference is disappointed that Andrés Arauz, Ecuador’s Vice Minister for Economic and Social Development, last week was unable to obtain a visa to visit the United Kingdom. Conference is concerned that the inability of many intended visitors seeking support and solidarity to obtain entry visas is an unhealthy development.

Ecuador’s Citizen’s Revolution – led by President Rafael Correa – is challenging the ideas behind austerity economics, a huge programme of public investment is the motor of Ecuador’s economic growth and its building of a more inclusive society. Four times more is spent on health and education than a decade ago after Ecuador scrapped the illegal debt owed to international financial agencies and devoted this instead to public services.

It is not surprising that there has been a failed right wing coup attempt led by rogue elements in the police that attempted to kill President Correa.

Cuba, Venezuela and Ecuador are regional leaders in promoting an alternative to US imposed neo-liberal policies contained within the Free Trade Area of the Americas treaty by the creation of ALBA, the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America – Peoples’ Trade Treaty.

Like Ecuador, Venezuela has also suffered attempted coup to depose the progressive Government of the late President Hugo Chávez.

Conference notes how reminiscent of the unrest in Chile that preceded the 1973 coup against Salvador Allende’s Popular Unity government is the current right wing sabotage and destabilization operating in parts of Venezuela.

Conference expresses its full support for the PSUV government of Nicolás Maduro and the CBST trade union confederation in the struggle against the extreme right wing attempting a new coup d’état in Venezuela.

The spectre of coup d’état is a clear and present threat to much of progressive Latin America.

Conference believes that support for progressive Latin America is best channelled through the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign and Friends of Ecuador and calls on the union to continue its supportive work with these solidarity groups – which will alert the union to issues with visas for appropriate action.

PROPOSING SPEECH NOTES:

Many of us have been inspired by the democratic and progressive social changes taking place in Latin America in recently years.

Led by Venezuela under Hugo Chavez, inspired by the example of Cuba, working people and the poor in numerous countries have seen life transforming changes in places such as Bolivia, Nicaragua, and as this motion highlights, most recently, Ecuador. Here, a huge public spending programme has created jobs and growth, combining with improved workers’ rights to bring millions out of poverty.

Our solidarity is now more important than ever with these changes, because as the motion notes “the spectre of coup d’etat is a clear and present threat to much of progressive Latin America” as is the threat of USA intervention and sanctions.

Nowhere can this be seen more than in Venezuela, where so much has been achieved in recent years, including arguably the most progressive labour law in the world.

In recent months, we have seen a wave of violence by extreme elements of Venezuela’s right-wing opposition aimed at ousting the elected government.

These attempts have intensified following President Chávez’s death last year – as the right-wing opposition believe that their time has come, despite the election of former union leader and bus driver Nicolas Maduro.

His party won December’s elections with a nationwide 10 point lead. Yet, nevertheless, just a few months later, extremists in the opposition unleashed the latest wave of violence.

Tragically, 42 Venezuelans have died following the explicit call for the undemocratic and unconstitutional ousting of Venezuela’s elected government. The principal causes are lethal opposition violence and the use of deliberately dangerous street barricades.

In a wave of terror against the population, government and public service buildings – from hospitals to universities to public broadcasters – have been attacked.

Of particular importance to conference is that our sister trade unions in transport have been attacked by far-right elements due to their commitment to the revolution. Workers in the Caracas metro and on buses have faced dozens of violent attacks – we must stand by them in defending their progress and calling for peace.

We need to remember though conference that this tiny minority are not without assistance – they receive regular verbal support from the US as well as millions of dollars.

USA Sanctions have now been proposed by the Republican right and passed in Congress.

One can only conclude that some in the US share the Venezuela opposition’s aim to oust the Maduro government.

Perhaps that’s not surprising as Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world. But it should not be tolerated. Venezuelans have the right to choose their own government free from outside interference.

Europe and the UK should respect this right too, in Venezuela, Ecuador and elsewhere.

This must include promoting dialogue with progressive governments such as Ecuador, rather than denying visas as this motion rightly alerts us to.

To conclude, our International solidarity can help to defeat these attempts to overturn social progress.

You can take action by lobbying your MP to join the 6o already who have spoken out against USA sanctions on Venezuela via the VSC website or do it on their stall here at conference.

Finally, you can affiliate your branch to the Venezuela Solidarity Campaign and support the Work of Friends of Ecuador.

Let’s loudly say No More Pinochets in Latin America!

SECONDING SPEECH NOTES:

Conference, you will have heard at this and many other conferences about progressive and trade union movements in countries such as Colombia in Latin America being persecuted, and working people across the world targeted for economic crises they did not cause, so its great to also be able to talk about those countries like Venezuela and Ecuador in Latin America where our solidarity is with positive changes.

I would like to just add a few points on why Venezuela is an important issue for us as trade unionists.

Unite has long term support for Venezuela and the VSC, who are kindly hosted by our London and Eastern Region. As the proposer has said this revolution is under threat from the former ruling elite in Venezuela and externally, from their paymasters in the US who are proposing sanctions.

Part of Hugo Chavez’s legacy is that Venezuela now has progressive economic and social policies and respects trade union rights, with the Labour Law a vital part of this.

The law was based on 6 months of consultation with working people and their organisations by the Venezuelan President and government. Over 20,000 different proposals were submitted.

There are many positive aspects to the new law – but I would like to highlight a few key points that have particular relevance to Britain;

•           Enshrining the right to form trade unions, trade union freedom, the right to strike and take secondary and solidarity action,

•           Recognition of the right to collective bargaining, and an obligation on employers to negotiate with trade unions,

•           An end to outsourcing and the use of agency labour to undermine terms and conditions,

•           The right to social security – including pensions – for all workers for the first time,

•           A shorter working week,

•           Extended maternity and paternity leave,

•           The prohibiting of all discrimination; and a positive obligation to promote and support employment for disabled workers.

•           Finally, the right to training and education for all workers.

On May Day this year increases in pensions, the minimum wage and public sector wages were announced, further improving the lives of millions.

Of course, such change has enemies, and powerful enemies at that. The former ruling elite of Venezuela who left so many Venezuelans living in terrible poverty want the former status quo returned. They have international friends in this aim – including the United States.

Venezuela does however, have many friends, especially ourselves in the trade union movement, and we can be confident that in the future our solidarity can help our Venezuelan comrades build further on our advances in workers’ rights and social inclusion.

So what kind of solidarity can we offer?

•           Joining VSC as an individual and affiliating your branch

•           Hosting Venezuelan speakers when they are here and sending our reps on trade union delegations to Venezuela – they are vital for building trade union links and solidarity

•           Passing motions and circulating materials.

Viva Venezuela and the new Latin America!