Venezuela orders two-day working week as energy crisis bites

Jessica Morris
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Venezuela's Economy Down 29 Percent In First Quarter
Maduro had already given public sector workers Fridays off (Source: Getty)

Venezuela has given public sector workers a two-day working week as its government fights to weather a worsening power crisis.

Britain was forced to introduce a three-day week to combat energy shortages during the 1970s. A coal miners' strike followed the first oil crisis when an Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) embargo sent prices soaring.

Venezuela's president, Nicolás Maduro, said on national television: "The public sector will work Monday and Tuesday, while we go through these critical and extreme weeks."

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Full salaries will still be paid despite the two-day week.

The move sparked rioting and unrest in several cities by citizens. They've endured months of energy rationing, food shortages and soaring prices amid Venezuela's worst recession in decades.

Maduro's government has already introduced four-hour blackouts for at least 40 days, plunging towns and cities across Veneuzela into darkness. "Previous measures unfortunately failed," Luis Motta Dominguez, energy minister, said.

The government had already given most of the country's 2.8m state employees Fridays off during April and May, to reduce energy consumption. Earlier this year, he ordered some shopping malls to generate their own power, and cut daily working hours.

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Critics have hit out at Maduro for giving state employees days off, saying it will lead to reduced productivity in the already embattled economy.

"Maduro says that 'we in government don't stop working for a second'. Of course. Except for Wednesdays, Thursdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays" satirised Leonardo Padron, a columnist for pro-opposition El Nacional newspaper, via Twitter.

An El Niño- induced drought has caused water levels at the stricken country's main hydroelectric dam, El Guri, to drop dramatically. But critics say better investment in and maintenance of Venezuela's energy infrastructure would've softened the blow.