On Monday, 300 workers from Lacteos Los Andes rallied outside the Venezuelan national assembly in order to request administrative and financial intervention into the company.
The nationalised Lacteos Los Andes processes and pasteurises milk, and produces yoghurt, juices, chicha (sweet rice drink), chocolate milk, oat milk, and jelly. It employs 3,375 people, and its products are distributed around the country through bread shops, corner shops, supermarkets, and the state owned PDVAL.
Aporrea reported that workers blamed the food minister Felix Osorio for sabotaging their supply and distribution. Over the last month, worker run cooking oil company Industrias Diana has also accused Osorio of imposing a manager on them and of preventing the distribution of their products.
Lacteos workers accused some distributors of increasing prices, and said they discovered trucks with primary materials at the La Guaira port. Presumably such supplies would be sold overseas for higher than regulated prices in Venezuela, or is being stored there to sabotage production.
Workers said that where as 15 to 20 food distribution trucks used to arrive at the plant daily, now only one, two, or none arrive. They said they believed the “irregularities” are part of a plan to bankrupt the company and “hand it over to the right wing bourgeoisie business people”.
The rallying workers told Aporrea that because of the “ferocious sabotage” by their management and the food ministry they feel worker control is necessary. The “bureaucracy has taken the company to the point of collapse”, while the workers are “fighting to take it forward”, they argued.
Workers said that Lacteos president Jairo Areyano has been “completely absent” from the plants and demanded that he be fired. One worker commented that Lacteos is “self sufficient”.
“We are for worker control as the only way of guaranteeing production and distribution, and that the surplus goes to the Venezuelan people and the workers. We aren’t fighting for any benefits [for ourselves], we want to recover the plants,” the worker continued.
Lacteos workers want to manage the new budget, as well as administration, sales and distribution.
In a press release, the Lacteos Los Andes company reported a 15.4% increase in production in July compared to June. However other Lacteos workers, protesting last Wednesday outside the Valencia plant, said that due to a lack of primary material, production has decreased by 40% over the last six months.
The Venezuelan government nationalised Lacteos Los Andes in 2008. During 2007 Lacteos had decreased production in order to create milk scarcity and increase its sale price. It was also allocating most of its milk to products like yoghurt, which are more profitable than ordinary milk. The milk scarcity also occurred in the lead up to the 2007 constitutional referendum. The private company was first founded in 1986, coming out of the old Leche Lacteos Merida.
While most products that were scarce following former president Hugo Chavez’s death and in the lead-up to and after the April presidential elections, are now available, if intermittently, powdered milk remains hard to get.