CORRECTED-(OFFICIAL)-Workers strike at Nestle Venezuela plant amid salary dispute

jueves 30 de octubre de 2014 11:39 GYT

(In Oct 29 item, corrects Dominguez's reference to union's wage increase demand in 4th paragraph to 75 percent from 65 percent)

CARACAS Oct 29 (Reuters) - Workers at a Nestle plant in Venezuela said on Wednesday they had begun striking over wages, shutting the factory as sky-high inflation complicates operating conditions for businesses in the South American nation.

The roughly 780 worker-strong union at the El Tocuyo factory in the western state of Lara voted on Tuesday to walk out after contract negotiations that started in March failed to end in a deal, union leader Jesus Dominguez told Reuters.

The OPEC country's annual inflation rate of 63.4 percent in August, the highest in the Western Hemisphere, is eating into Venezuelans' purchasing power and has become a hot-button issue at the negotiating table.

Dominguez said Nestle, the world's biggest food maker, offered a 50 percent salary increase, while workers demanded a 75 percent increase to keep up with price growth.

"We're asking that increases be based on inflation... so that money doesn't evaporate from our hands," Dominguez said on Wednesday.

El Tocuyo, one of five plants Nestle has in Venezuela, produces cereals, culinary products, beverages and coffee. Dominguez said workers had decided to keep packaging cereals that had already been produced to avoid any health issues.

"We are working closely with the trade union and the labor authorities to resolve the situation rapidly," said Meike Schmidt, a Nestle spokeswoman based in Vevey, Switzerland.

The stoppage is another sign of operating difficulties for private companies in Socialist-run Venezuela. Currency controls have stymied imports while fixed prices for certain goods have dissuaded production.   Continuación...