Venezuela’s state-run oil company Petroleum of Venezuela (PDSVA) is reportedly experiencing a mass labor shortage following the resignation of thousands of employees.
According to the General Secretary of the Petroleum and Gas Workers Union of Falcón state, Iván Freites, around 10,000 employees quit the PDSVA in the first week of January, equivalent to 7 percent of the company’s workforce.
“This is the first situation of its kind,” Freites told Univision. “The main cause of this exodus is that salaries have collapsed, and a worker who cannot buy an egg with his salary is a slave.”
Freites added that the salary of the average PDSVA worker is now equivalent to four dollars a month, roughly double the country’s minimum wage, whereas those working in private sector companies can earn between $5,000 to $15,000 a month.
“The reason is that the salary does not correspond to the high cost of living or food supplies,” added the analyst Rafael Quiroz. “It is not just average laborers leaving, but also professional engineers with years of service. Some have been forced to leave the country and others have moved to the private sector.”
The company’s oil production is now at a record low of 1.6 million barrels a day, compared to the 3.8 million barrels a day when Hugo Chávez came to power in 1999. This, combined with a collapse in oil prices, has massively affected government revenues amid the country’s economic crisis.
Last year, socialist dictator Nicolás Maduro began arresting dozens of senior PDSVA executives on alleged corruption charges and replacing them with government loyalists with little to no prior experience in oil operations, in a bid to tighten his grip on the crucial industry.
Maduro also appointed inexperienced military leader Major General Manuel Quevedo to run the company. Quevedo has since promised to launch a “crusade” against corruption and pledged to “consolidate the deepening of socialism” through the “total, absolute transformation of PDVSA.”
As well as internal challenges, the company is also facing the pressure of economic sanctions imposed by the U.S., which include a ban on American citizens from dealing with the company in any capacity.
During his tour of Latin America last week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson also floated the possibility of blocking all Venezuelan oil imports in a bid to further squeeze the regime, although the idea was met by opposition from regional leaders who fear that decreased revenue would only worsen the country’s current humanitarian crisis.