In a well staged ceremony, up to the point where President Hugo Chavez broke down at the very end (see video above), the Venezuelan President signed into Law one of the most important Bills for the Venezuelan economy: The Labor Bill. A few hours after it was signed, we still know little about it, except for some of the tweets by the President and leaks of drafts of the document, which we still don’t know whether they contain what was approved in the end.and signed into Law by the President.
Despite this, Chavista unions celebrated without knowing the details, and Government officials claimed that no Bill had ever been consulted so much, despite nobody knowing its contents.
This is in contrast with the three way committee of Workers, Government and the Private Sector, which hammered out a new Bill in 1998, led by Teodoro Petkoff. A Bill that eliminated the retroactivity of severance pay, which studies had shown was the main limitation in creating jobs at the time. But much like the President’s health treatment (and I am not referring to this), Chavismo does not believe in calculations and techniques, they do everything by the seat of their pants, always hoping and asking for miracles, of which they have had a few. But maybe Chavez’ emotions reveal that a huge miracle is needed now.
Curiously, it was only the Government which did not comply with the 1998 Labor Bill, from its mandate to create pension funds with workers contributions, to that of paying off severance for each worker every year into a trust. But, despite this, the Chavez administration passed this new Bill, looking for votes, which reportedly reduces the work week from 44 hours to 40 (reportedly by saying that if you work Saturdays, you no longer do, other workers remain on the same 40 hour work week) and gives two years paid maternity leave, even if you adopt. But the Government is, once again, unlikely to be able to comply with the1 Bill, given its higher demands on the national budget.
But studies show that retroactivity, whereby you get paid severance for all the years you worked at the last salary you made, is simply bad for the Government and companies in an inflationary environment like we have, as shown below:
Basically, the bars show the impact of the law on a worker with 1, 5, 10, 15, 20 and 25 years under the current law or with the new Bill with o% (gray), 10% (blue), 15% (gray) and 25% (black) inflation. The number on top of each bar is the number of paid days that each worker would have to take home if he quits (twice if he is fired). As you can see, it simply gets worse the higher the inflation, which with something like today’s inflation is triple what it would be under “normal” inflation. But the Chavez Government still believes that inflation is to the lack of supply of goods, not to the excess of money their generous printing has generated.
But the biggest head fake in the law, is that none of this will need to be implemented for one year. A full year to get rid of workers and implement measures, never mind that the elections are in October.
Of course, the whole thing is illegal anyway, as it is being approved under a law to deal with the emergency with the flooding and the housing problem, which is quite a stretch, but laws and rules is not what Chavismo is all about.
Oh yeah! Chavez said the Bill ends what he calls “Tercerizacion”, the local word for outsourcing. I am not sure how it manages to do that, but I have to ask: What will he do with the Cuban workers? After all, that is all he does with the Cubans: hire a Cuban company or the Government directly, and give the workers as little as possible. Once their “tour of duty” is done, they are shipped back home, but their company keeps providing the same service, without the workers getting the direct benefits.
But if it is “socialist” and Cuban outsourcing, it must be all right. The Bill will surely provide for that.