PDVSA Considers Settlement Agreement with Employees

Top executives at PDVSA are considering a solution that would bring a close to the work disruptions caused by the election of a new board of directors and a new company president. A plan to restructure the board of directors in being considered as a possible solution. A restructured board could include a shareholders' representative group to protect the government's interests, four directors from inside the company, and one to represent labor interests, according to a report that quoted Nelson Navas, the president of the company's natural gas division, PDVSA Gas.

Top management and other employees have been protesting the appointment of a new board of directors they claim is based on political considerations and not merit. The workers have demanded that five new directors resign, but late Wednesday forty-four executives said, while they were still lobbying the government to rescind the appointments, they weren't joining a slowdown called by workers over the weekend. "We're not supporting a stoppage. We are working harder than ever," Mary Lizardo, vice president of the company's petrochemicals unit, said at a news conference. She was flanked by dozens of cheering executives at a Caracas hotel.

It was the first indication of division between protesting employees since the standoff began. Lizardo did not clarify whether executives - who launched the revolt with a newspaper advertisement two weeks ago - had never supported the slowdown or had just decided to back down Wednesday. PDVSA Finance Director Juan Fernandez had said earlier that most employees had been idle for four hours Wednesday. A company spokeswoman, who spoke on condition of anonymity, denied the claim, insisting "activities were normal."