“Comprehensive income” a figment invented by Chavismo and a stratagem to pulverize workers’ salaries

“Comprehensive income” a figment invented by Chavismo and a stratagem to pulverize workers’ salaries





On May 1st, the expectations of all public administration workers in Venezuela were very low. Particularly in relation to the presidential labor day announcement, since it had been customary and expected, especially in governments of the democratic stage, a general salary increase.

Walter Obregón / Correspondent lapatilla.com

With Nicolás Maduro in power, the salary adjustment has been a deception, because he exchanged the increase of salaries for bonuses that only serve to momentarily alleviate individual and family needs, but which according to experts, union members and the workers themselves, are detrimental to their years of service because these handouts have no impact on social benefits.

The lack of a real increase has also affected workers in the private sector, where many have been laid off or their employment relationship ended, and their social benefits are calculated based on the minimum wage of the public administration, which is 130 bolivars (about $3.42 U.S. dollars).

This is what happened to Carmen Guédez, a former employee of the defunct ‘Banco Occidentalde Descuento’ (BOD, Western Discount Bank) in Barinas, where she worked for 11 years and eight months, and when she resigned from the position she held as a Sales Executive, her payment for years of service (severance pay) was 15 dollars at the then official exchange rate of March 2021. The bank later went bankrupt.

According to the Center for Documentation and Analysis for Workers (Cenda), the food basket rose by 1.02% between February and March 2024, reaching $554.26, and with the minimum wage established by the National Executive at 130 bolivars per month (about 3.42 dollars), a family needs 17.73 dollars a day to only cover the food basket.

Maduro’s new Comprehensive Income is $130. This represents an increase of 30 dollars, compared to what was published in the Official Gazette at the beginning of 2024, which includes increases in ‘Cestaticket’ (food bonus’) and the “Economic War Bonus”, but these changes apply mainly to the public sector employees.

In the month of February, the ‘Indexed Comprehensive Income’ was set at 100 U.S. dollars, where 60 dollars correspond to the Economic War Bonus and 40 dollars to the Cestaticket, but the biggest problem for workers is the lack of impact of this social benefits and also retirement pay.

Manipulation or misleading offer?

Adalberto Dávila, retired from the Government of Barinas, former union leader and lawyer specialized in labor matters, made an analysis for lapatilla.com about Maduro’s “Comprehensive Income”, which he considers should be considered in two aspects that do not favor the future salary of the workers.

And he explains this in the following way: “Maduro’s Comprehensive Income is either a manipulation or a misleading offer, since it purportedly aims to equal the normal salary of workers and it is not true. The National Government has been imposing the policy of paying with the so-called ‘Economic War Bonus’, which has no impact on real wages and even less on social benefits. “Maduro is in default with the workers in Venezuela, because he has not increased wages for two years, making this the worst economic policy that Venezuelans have ever suffered, which causes irreparable damage to the family assets of each worker.”

In relation to Workers Day 2024, Dávila recalled that as is customary in Venezuela, the National Government announces a salary increase, but this year for the second consecutive time, the employer keeps those workers’ salaries frozen, as a fact that negatively impacts each and every family nucleus.”

“Serious economic damage is caused, because there is no purchasing power, on the one hand and, on the other, social benefits which are the most sacred labor conquests that workers have, have been eliminated,” he said.

In his analysis, the labor expert considers that the Venezuelan working class receives “a starvation wage of 130 bolivars, which is equivalent to about 3.5 U.S. dollars per month, tightening the cord of misery that leads to an abject poverty that is alarming.”

Bread for today and tomorrow?

“People have had to wrap themselves up as far as the blanket can reach,” says Adalberto Dávila, taking into account that Venezuelan workers have been forced to live day to day (hand to mouth), with a reality that awaits them: what will it be like next?

“While, it is true that the minimum wage has been stagnant at 130 bolivars per month, for almost 800 days, it is no less true that the bonuses alleviate the momentary crisis that workers are suffering, with the Economic War Bonus being 90 dollars, which does help to offset the food and medicine expenses of active workers and pensioners on the day they receive it and they have no choice but to take it and spend it.”

With this, Dávila calculates that “pensioners become a human species in extinction.” And he continues by asking himself a question: “How does a pensioner survive after he has given everything for 25 or 30 years in the service of the public administration, and the National Government does not pay him a fair salary that dignifies him?”

Taking a look at the reality of those who completed their years of labor service in Venezuela, Dávila reflected that “the elderly suffer from chronic diseases, cardiovascular, kidney, diabetes, among others, but they do not have enough money to buy their medicines. How do they do it?”

The private ones: a better time

Adalberto Dávila believes that everyone is looking to the private sector to be able to ensure a monthly income that helps them meet more needs than those who work for the public sector.

“Private sector workers are living better than public workers; “The private sector has been paying in U.S. dollars for years and providing other benefits,” he said.

Although private workers also receive benefits, “their salaries range between $150 to $400 per month,” which are still below the basic food basket calculated by Cenda, at $554.26.

Given this, Dávila considers it pertinent to return to tripartite negotiation, made up of the National Government, private sector employers and unions or labor federations. Improve the worker’s working conditions by establishing collective contracts, agree on a general increase in wages and salaries, and control inflation and the increase in the dollar.

There was no salary increase

According to Professor Teófilo Castillo, general secretary of the Barinas Education Workers Union (Sintraenba), a subsidiary of the Federation of Education Workers (Fetraenseñanza), after almost 800 days without receiving an increase or salary adjustment, the working class in Venezuela received Nicolás Maduro’s announcement as a “bucket of cold water” when commemorating Workers’ Day.

“The last salary increase occurred in March 2022, when it was set at 130 bolivars, which represented 30 dollars on that date, but as a result of inflation, that represents only 3.56 dollars today,” explained Professor Castillo.

Given the data, the teacher’s union member confirmed that “the minimum wage has devalued by 88.14%, which means that if before you could buy 10 kilos of rice, today you only have enough for one kilo.”

For Professor Teófilo Castillo, “the Venezuelan State has an accumulated debt with the workers, since our National Constitution establishes in its article 91 that every worker has the right to a sufficient salary that allows him to live with dignity and cover his basic material, social and intellectual needs and that of his family (…)”.

He continues enunciating the article by specifying that “the State will guarantee workers in the public and private sectors a minimum living wage that will be adjusted each year, taking as one of the references the cost of the basic basket.”

This basic basket, which currently averages at least 554 dollars per month, opens a negative gap between what was agreed upon by Maduro and what is established in the Constitution, of 390 dollars, “this being the main cause of the desertion of workers in the different productive sectors and their barbaric impoverishment, which translates into deterioration in the quality of life.”

For the Venezuelan teachers, Castillo considers it important to “let it be known that on May 1st there was no increase in salary, since the salary is the payment that each worker receives each week, fortnight or monthly derived from a work carried out and that guarantees a life worthy.”

Therefore, this must have an impact on vacations, bonuses, contractual bonuses, social benefits and the amount assigned for retiree pensions.

“To this day, there is no clear explanation from the Ministry of Labor about the form of application and scope of the salary review, it has only been said that the War Bonus and Cestaticket were increased, which has no impact about the payment of vacations, bonuses, amount of bonuses, benefits, and most seriously, the amount of retiree pensions,” Castillo pointed out.

‘Comprehensive income’ without arguments

Professor Teófilo Castillo considers that “there are no convincing elements that the National Executive can argue to continue denying a salary increase after 778 days after the last one occurred.”

It is public and notorious, according to Castillo, that there are highly privileged sectors of national life. Venezuelans are witnessing the deployment of superfluous and ostentatious consumption and expenses, some of them aimed at politics and many sumptuous expenses, and although some external measures have been made more flexible, the needs of the Venezuelan worker continue to be ignored.

The unions throughout the country “will continue to use all the legal tools that our Constitution and the laws allow us to continue demanding a decent salary, the signing of a real and authentic Collective Contract, which in the case of national and regional teachers, would be the application of the General Regulations of the Teaching Profession, the recognition of all contractual benefits, which have been violated by the employer, and the rescue of teaching as a career.