A Strike Won't Hamper Venezuelan Output

PDVSA says it will continue to pump oil even if a nationwide general strike erupts because of recent government measures and the change in the company's top management. The country's largest labor union group, the Venezuelan Workers' Confederation (CTV), called for a national strike in March over President Hugo Chavez's wave of new economic policies, including the last month's revamping of PDVSA's board of directors. "If there was a strike, management would initiate its contingency plans," a company official said. "Management does not want one; they are strongly opposed to it," the official said.

PDVSA has been able to keep operations running for several days during past strikes utilizing non-unionized management staff to maintain normal production.

Employees and managers are demanding the resignation of five of seven new members of the board of directors sworn in by President Hugo Chavez last week. They say the appointments politicize the company and will hurt its competitiveness.

Operations at the company's headquarters continued Tuesday amid normal security as employees prepared to stage an after-work peace protest in which they wave banners. Workers and executives have held similar daily, peaceful protests since the appointments.

PDVSA President Gaston Parra said on Tuesday he was hopeful the two sides could resolve the conflict through discussions, "We have sought a dialogue in a frank, open manner to find a viable solution (to the situation)," Parra said. Chavez had named economist and political ally Parra to the top position in PDVSA in February, replacing Gen. Guaicaipuro Lameda who had become increasingly critical of the administration's energy policies.