Labour & Trade Union News

Hands Off Venezuela supporters organised a stall at the conference and we were able to distribute literature and collect 130 signatures (about half of conference delegates) for our open letter to the US trade union movement, including many of the leaders of the union. There was a lot of interest in our stall, delegates were keen to hear about events in Latin America and we had some very interesting discussions. We also made some important new links for the campaign with several delegates agreeing to organise film screenings in their colleges.

Fringe meeting

We held a joint fringe meeting, with Justice For Columbia and the Cuban Ambassador in the conference hall on Saturday evening. The attendance, of around 35, was not bad considering it was cut across to some extent by the late finish of conference and other meetings taking place at the same time.

Zelmys Dominguez, Political Counsellor of the Cuban Embassy spoke first and highlighted the role that Cuba has played in helping other countries around the world develop their health and education systems by providing teachers and doctors. This has been very important in Venezuela. She also explained that US imperialism has been trying to isolate Cuba, and that international labour movement support has been important.

The next to speak was Hubert de Jesus Ballesteros, Deputy Leader of the Fensuagro, the Colombian agricultural workers union, who talked about the climate of repression that exists for trade unionists in Colombia. He explained that assassination of leaders and activists is a standard way for the bosses to deal with the unions, and even ‘respectable’ multinationals are implicated in this.

Noting that there are stark contrasts in Latin America, from the severe repression of Colombia to the situation in Venezuela that is strongly in favour of the working class, the chair, NEC member Maire Daley, introduced Jorge Martin from the Hands Off Venezuela campaign.

Jorge talked about recent pressure by US imperialism to isolate Venezuela diplomatically. A recent article by Otto Reich, describes Castro and Chavez as an axis of evil, while high profile trips to Latin America by Condoleeza Rice and Donald Rumsfelt have attempted to stir up opposition. These attempts have so far been unsuccessful.

He explained that the masses have been the driving force of the revolution at every stage, first in overturning the successful opposition coup, then in saving the economy by taking over the running of industry at the time of the bosses lockout and finally in defeating the opposition during the recall referendum. He went on to list the social gains of the revolution which include the nationalisation of certain factories under workers control, the distribution of unused land to the peasants and the extensive social programme which is introducing universal healthcare and eradicating illiteracy.

There was a lively discussion that focused on how best to build links with the workers in each of these countries, especially Colombia and Venezuela, and on what we can do to help. The meeting helped to prepare the ground for the motion before conference to support Venezuela.

Conference motion

The motion on Venezuela was heard in the international discussion on Monday morning. The mover of the motion, Darrel Cozens from West Midlands region, drew attention to the gains that the revolution has meant for ordinary people, pointing to the social programmes that are bringing health and education to young and old. He also explained that Venezuela has become a beacon of hope to the oppressed across Latin America, noting especially the recent demonstrations and uprisings in Bolivia over multinationals exploiting the country’s gas reserves.

The speakers on the motion were very well received and the motion unanimously supported. This opens the way for greater links between this union and those in Venezuela and this will be further advanced by the commitment to participate in a joint union delegation to Venezuela to see the revolution in action.

The conference was a step forward for the campaign and has given us many new links and points off support to build upon. The task now is to follow up on these and use them to spread the word about the Bolivarian Revolution and Hands Off Venezuela, to which NATFHE already agree to affiliate at last year’s conference.

Text of the motion:

This conference congratulates and supports the Bolivarian Revolution and the Venezuelan government for utilising the country’s wealth and resources for reforms to benefit the working class, the poor and the landless.

Conference views with alarm however the bellicose statements being made by the USA and its allies Columbia and the financial oligarchy in Venezuela which pose a real threat to these reforms.

Conference agrees to join with the NUJ to organise a trade union delegation to Venezuela in solidarity with the Revolution and to support a delegation to the World Youth Festival in Caracas in August 2005.

Key signatories to the Open Letter to US Trade Unionists.

Fawzi Ibrahim, NATFHE, Treasurer
Paul Mackney, NATFHE, General Secretary
M. O’Mara, NATFHE, Ex – President
Paul Bennett, NATFHE, Fulltime Officer
D. Armstrong, NATFHE, NEC
M. Jardine, NATFHE, NEC
Stephanie Sanders, NATFHE, NEC

Read more ...

The Hands Off Venezuela campaign has received a letter from the UNT in which the UNT leadership expresses its support and recognition for the campaign. We provide a scanned version of the signed letter (signatures of Ruben Linares and of Orlando Chirino, Stalin Perez and Eduardo Piñate), which is a tremendous recognition for the solidarity work we are doing throughout the world!


Reconocimiento de la UNT a Manos Fuera de Venezuela

Los abajo firmantes, miembros de la Coordinación Nacional de la Unión Nacional de Trabajadores (UNT) queremos hacer llegar nuestro reconocimiento a la Campaña "Manos Fuera de Venezuela" por las distintas campañas de solidaridad que viene realizando en apoyo al proceso de cambios que vive nuestro país y en particular al movimiento obrero revolucionario venezolano.

Reconocemos en particular  la positiva labor que esta campaña ha llevado a cabo en relación a las organizaciones políticas y sindicales de la clase obrera en distintos países de Europa y otros continentes con el fin de colaborar en la difusión de la realidad del movimiento sindical venezolano entre los activistas polìticos y sindicales de la izquierda, denunciar las manipulaciones mediáticas del imperialismo contra la revolución bolivariana y colaborar en el reconocimiento de la UNT por parte de varias organizaciones sindicales de diferentes países.

Deseamos que esta colaboración  continúe y llamamos a todos los colaboradores de la campaña "Manos Fuera de Venezuela" en los distintos países  a continuar trabajando en pro de esos mismos objetivos tal y como lo han venido haciendo hasta ahora.


Orlando Chirinos, Stalin Perez Borges, Ruben Linares, Eduardo Piñate (Coordinacion Nacional UNT)


UNT recognition of Hands Off Venezuela

The signatories, members of the National Coordination of the National Workers Union (UNT) would like to send our recognition to the Hands Off Venezuela campaign for the different solidarity campaigns it has organised in support of the process of changes which our country is living through and particularly of the Venezuelan revolutionary trade union movement.

We recognise, particularly, the positive role played by this campaign regarding the political and trade union organisations of the working class in different countries of Europe and other continents with the aim of collaborating in explaining the reality of the Venezuelan trade union and left wing political activists, denouncing the imperialist media manipulation against the Bolivarian revolution and collaborating in getting the UNT recognised by several trade union organisations from different countries.

We wish to see the continuation of this collaboration and we appeal to all the Hands Off Venezuela supporters in different countries to continue to work in favour of the same aims as they have done until now.


Orlando Chirinos, Stalin Perez Borges, Ruben Linares, Eduardo Piñate (National Coordinators of the UNT)

Read more ...

Hands Off Venezuela (http://www.handsoffvenezuela.org). Speaking at a meeting in solidarity with Venezuela in London on Wednesday May 25, Frances O'Grady, Deputy General Secretary of the British Trade Union Congress, made clear the opposition of the TUC on US interference in Venezuela. "We oppose intervention of countries like the USA in Venezuela's internal affairs" said O'Grady, adding: "last week I'm pleased to say the TUC executive formally agreed to raise concerns about US intentions, including threats to the President, with the British Foreign Office"

She expressed in no uncertain terms that the official position of the British trade union movement was one of support for the Venezuelan government against any foreign threats. "As trade unionists we absolutely reserve the right to stand side by side with the Venezuelan government in opposing threats of military - or any other kind of intervention, while at the same time raising any concerns about any government anywhere in the world if there is unwarranted interference in the internal affairs of working people and their unions."

This was the result of a meeting convened by Hands Off Venezuela supporter and general secretary of the National Union of Journalists a few weeks ago. At the meeting, a number of national officials of UNISON, the FBU, the RMT, NATFHE, TGWU and the GMB, with whom we have been discussing the situation of the trade union movement in Venezuela, expressed their concern about the increased belligerence of Washington's statements on Venezuela.

Regarding the proposal raised by the Venezuelan business federation, FEDECAMARAS, to open an International Labour Organization Commission of Enquiry on alleged violations of trade union freedoms by the Venezuelan government, Frances O'Grady explained in no uncertain terms that the British TUC will oppose it. "But for those who may ask, and I am anticipating here, whether the TUC will support Venezuelan employer attempts to bring an ILO complaint against the Venezuelan government, then let me make it clear: we will resist any attempt to turn the ILO into a political football. Concerns about Venezuela frankly look small compared to the killings and the collusion that happen every day in Colombia. And yet, the Colombian unions' calls for an investigation backed by the UK trade union movement and backed by the South African government have fallen on deaf ears. So, we may be simple trade unionists, but we are not naive."

The proposal, which will be discussed at the ILO International Labour Conference taking place from May 31 – June 16, has been promoted by the Venezuelan opposition, and particularly the business federation FEDECAMARAS. This is the same body that participated in the military coup against president Chavez in April 2002, and whose president Pedro Carmona was the country's illegitimate president during the short lived coup. Opposition to their proposal by the TUC, with member unions representing 6 and half million workers, will certainly carry a lot of weight within the European trade union movement. The TUC’s opposition to the proposal also comes against strong pressure from the British employers federation CBI.

O'Grady summed up the position of the TUC by explaining that "the achievements of the Venezuelan government are truly impressive, and we support them. And while we will always retain our right to express concerns about union freedoms, we would say neither of these positions are negotiable and they can go hand in hand. We want to listen and learn much more from our Venezuelan sisters and brothers and support them in building both social justice and free trade unionism."

The patient work of the Hands Off Venezuela campaign in Britain over the last 3 years has certainly raised the profile of Venezuela within the trade union movement. A number of unions have already passed motions on Venezuela and this year's trade union conference season will see most British unions discussing similar ones. All of this is preparing the ground for a full discussion on Venezuela at the forthcoming TUC congress in September.

The audio files for Frances O'Grady statement can be heard here:


Read more ...

Over the weekend Hands Off Venezuela supporters were in Brighton raising solidarity with the Venezuelan revolution at the Amicus Policies and Rules Conference. Supporters of the campaign within the union campaigned for closer links between Amicus members and the solidarity work with the Venezuelan revolution in Britain.

As part of this campaigning work the Hands Off Venezuela supporters in the union organised a fringe meeting on Saturday evening to highlight the revolutionary process in this Latin American country and to rally support for Venezuela against the threat of imperialist intervention on the part of the USA. There was a thorough debate at the meeting with those taking part asking a lot of questions about what is happening in Venezuela.

On Sunday May 15, a delegate for General Industries, and also a Hands Off Venezuela supporter, Espe Espigares presented a resolution that appealed to the conference and the union as a whole to pledge support for “the revolutionary movement of the Venezuelan people in their struggle for socialist equality and justice” and also for the Hands Off Venezuela campaign.

She explained how the USA is pointing the finger at Venezuela as rogue state, but she answered this by giving facts and figures about what the Bolivarian revolution is actually achieving for the poor masses, including the literacy campaign, healthcare etc. And she added that these are the kinds of policies we would like to see here in Britain, and therefore it is the duty of the labour movement in Britain and throughout the world to support the Venezuelan revolution.

This resolution was passed with a massive 521 votes in favour. This represents 97% of the conference delegates. On the basis of this resolution the Hands Off Venezuela campaign can now officially circulate its message of solidarity with the Venezuelan revolution among the members of one of the biggest trade unions in Europe with 1.2 million members. The Chair of the conference explained that the Venezuelan question was a very important issue and it is important that the union is now taking it on board. 

During the 5-day conference delegates and some Brighton based supporters of the campaign collected hundreds of signatures for the “Open letter to US trade unions”. Importantly, among the signatories were Derek Simpson, the General Secretary of the union, as well as several members of the NEC, including Bill Spiers, Meurig Thomas, John Oliver, Steve Davison (Chair of Amicus), Dave Hutchinson, Jane Stewart, Colin Walker, Dean Taylor, Eddie Grimes and Howard Turner. Among the international visitors C.H. Venkatachalam, the General Secretary of the All India Bank Employees’ association also signed up.

This decision of Amicus comes after a number of other important unions in Britain have already pledged support for the Bolivarian revolution and for the Hands Off Venezuela campaign. Amongst those is the railway workers union RMT, the firefighters FBU, the transport union TGWU, the journalists union NUJ and the college lecturers union NATFHE.

Now we need to build on this successful intervention at Amicus conference and reach out to more trade unions with the message of the Hands Off Venezuela campaign.

Here we publish the text of the resolution that was passed.

Resolution 97 for the Amicus Policy Conference 2005


This Conference deplores the intents of the United States to intervene in the internal life of Venezuela. Two attempts have been made to overthrow the democratically elected Government of Hugo Chavez and behind these attempts has been the hand of the CIA. Conference pledges its support to the revolutionary movement of the Venezuelan people in their struggle for socialist equality and justice. Furthermore Conference pledges support to the “Hands Off Venezuela Campaign” which seeks to promote awareness of what is happening in Venezuela.

Read more ...

Hands Off Venezuela supporters went up to sunny Southport (Merseyside) to raise awareness of Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution amongst the members of one of the most militant unions in the TUC. Between May 10 and May 14, we held a stall and leafletted the conference. FBU conference was a very good chance to present our “Open letter to US trade unionists”, and FBU President and Hands Off Venezuela sponsor Ruth Winters appealed to the delegates to sign it and to circulate it in their branches. New General Secretary Matt Wrack also signed the appeal. If it is true that just a minority of delegates knew about Venezuela and its revolution, delegates were very sympathetic and supportive of our cause once we explained to them what was going on. We sold some literature and got our message across to the FBU delegates. Now the task is to publicise the struggles of the Venezuelan masses in all FBU branches, so next year all delegates will be very aware of the Hands Off Venezuela campaign and why we must support our Venezuelan brothers and sisters.

Read more ...

Join / affiliate to the campaign!

Make a donation!

Hands Off Venezuela's financial resources are limited so we rely on our supporters around the world.  Please make a donation of any size towards building the campaign