RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – A group of Venezuelan health sector workers threatened on Wednesday to go on labor strike if the country’s authorities do not comply with the full payment of salaries and contractual benefits they claim are being violated.
During a protest at the gates of the Ministry of Health in downtown Caracas, union member Pablo Zambrano explained to Efe that the workers are “waiting” for a response from the authorities who committed themselves last June 11 with “an act of agreement” to grant salary improvements and which, they assure, to this day has been unfulfilled.
“And if there is no satisfactory response, the workers in all the Caracas (health) centers and in all the states that agree, we are simply going to keep our arms down,” he indicated.
The “sit-down strike” refers to a form of protest carried out by workers in which, although they go to their work center to render services, they do not work their working day, or they do it in a reduced way. The protest has already been used on other occasions by Venezuelan healthcare workers.
The health workers demand, among other things, full payment of wages and salaries, transportation bonuses, and food.
“We are really tired of (Health) Minister Carlos Alvarado not showing his face and not explaining the reason for the discrimination of our salary in this way,” said Zenaida Figuera, union leader, who was at the demonstration.
This is the second protest carried out by the union so this week. So far, the Venezuelan health authorities have not pronounced themselves on the union’s demands.
The health sector’s warning to “maintain” a “sit-down” strike takes place in a context in which unions have reported the exodus of health personnel due to low salaries or shortage of supplies, and when Venezuela reports daily an average of more than 1,100 new cases of covid-19.
According to studies cited by the NGO Médicos Unidos de Venezuela (MUV), “32,000 doctors had left the country” by March of last year, when the pandemic began, while in the specialty of bioanalysis and nursing, by December 2020, there was an exodus of between 60 and 70% of the total.
In addition, the latest MUV balance sheet reports that a total of 683 health workers have died in the country as a result of the virus.