Labor unrest at Venezuelan steelmaker slows output

CARACAS (MarketWatch) — Labor unrest at Venezuela’s state steel maker, known as Sidor, has slowed production of construction materials needed for a housing initiative that is central to President Hugo Chavez’s re-election campaign, a local newspaper reported Tuesday.

According to the daily El Nacional, Sidor’s production of metal rods used by builders has fallen by 7,800 tons over the last 11 days. Workers have been protesting the company’s failure to incorporate a group of contractors into the labor agreement, the newspaper reported. El Nacional added that company authorities had until recently kept the conflict quiet and out of the media.

Chavez has promised to build more than 150,000 homes this year as he goes about addressing a shortfall that has been estimated at two million units. The leftist leader, who is seeking a third six-year term in elections next year, has launched a housing drive, dubbed the Grand Housing Mission, that aims to build two million homes before the end of the decade.

Chavez has reached out to various foreign partners, most notably China, for financing and technical assistance in the home building effort.

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