(Corrects Dominguez’s reference to union’s wage increase demand in 5th paragraph to 75 percent from 65 percent)
CARACAS, Oct 30 (Reuters) - Workers at a Nestle plant in Venezuela on Wednesday halted a strike over wages after agreeing to restart negotiations with the world’s biggest food group.
The roughly 780 worker-strong union at the El Tocuyo factory in the western state of Lara on Tuesday shut the factory as sky-high inflation complicates operating conditions for businesses in the South American nation.
They decided to return to the negotiation table and restart the plant because “the best solution is to reach a deal,” union leader Jesus Dominguez told Reuters on Thursday morning.
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 had said Nestle offered a 50 percent salary increase, while workers demanded a 75 percent increase to keep up with price growth.
El Tocuyo, one of five plants Nestle has in Venezuela, produces cereals, culinary products, beverages and coffee.
Swiss-based Nestle confirmed the strike had been lifted.
“The trade union has agreed to resume full operations of our factory while they continue to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement with Nestlé Venezuela, in presence of the local labour authorities,” said Meike Schmidt, a Nestle spokeswoman in Vevey.
The brief 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.
U.S. cleaning products maker Clorox Co last month announced it was exiting Venezuela, saying that it would sell its assets because business was not viable.
Venezuela then announced a “temporary” takeover of two Clorox plants, saying the company had set an “evil” example by abandoning its staff.
Various multinationals, from Colgate-Palmolive Co to Avon Products Inc, have been warning of hits to their balance sheets and are scaling back operations in Venezuela.
Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer in Caracas; Additional reporting by Caroline Copley in Zurich Editing by W Simon