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Venezuela steel strike reaches 22 days with no end in sight

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Caracas, Oct 8 (EFE).- A strike involving 14,000 workers at Venezuela's largest steelmaker, state-owned Sidor, has reached 22 days despite "bluster" from President Nicolas Maduro, and "no solution is on the horizon," labor leader Yunis Hernandez said Tuesday.

"Maduro has called us anarcho-syndicalist criminals and threatened to come with other workers and break the strike, but the people know the government is solely responsible for Sidor now being totally paralyzed," Hernandez told Efe.

The head of state said last Saturday that the striking employees of Sidor, which was nationalized in 2008, would be replaced by other workers unless they quickly put an end to their job action.

"I hope they rectify their position immediately or soon. If not, we'll recover Sidor with the entire people of Venezuela, with all types of workers. I'm putting them on notice. There'll be no weakness in the face of labor criminals, anarcho-syndicalists," Maduro said.

Speaking to army troops and members of the Bolivarian Militias, battalions of armed workers, Maduro said the strikers were demanding a bonus payment equivalent to some $80,000 per worker.

Hernandez, however, told Efe in a phone interview that "that figure is false and Maduro throws it out there to manipulate public opinion."

The amount of back pay owed per worker dating back to the 2008 nationalization of Sidor is more or less 150,000 bolivares ($23,810), the union official said.

"And it's not as if we're holding a knife to their throat so they pay us now; we just want a timetable for the payments," Hernandez added.

Sidor "has been run into the ground. It's sad. Just like other state enterprises, because they don't even invest in maintenance," Hernandez said, adding that "even to buy boots, we workers do our own collection."

The company is Latin America's fourth-largest integrated steel producer and the biggest in the Andean region, with annual capacity of roughly 4 million tons of liquid steel.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/agencia-efe/131008/venezuela-steel-strike-reaches-22-days-no-end-sight