CARACAS – Venezuela’s socialist government ordered public workers on Tuesday to work a two-day week as an energy-saving measure in the crisis-hit South American OPEC country.
President Nicolas Maduro had already given most of Venezuela’s 2.8 million state employees Fridays off during April and May to cut down on electricity consumption.
“We have decided to add Wednesdays and Thursdays as non-working days off for the public sector,” Vice President Aristóbulo Istúriz told state TV during a visit to the Guri dam and hydroelectric plant in south Venezuela.
Workers will be paid for the days they are not on the job because of the government action.
The government is excluding workers in sensitive sectors, such as food. Schools will also close on Fridays.
Critics have derided Maduro for reducing the public sector’s working week, and argued that it would hurt national productivity at a time of recession and shortages. Opponents also have said the move was unlikely to save electricity because employees would go home and turn on appliances there.
Drought has affected water levels at the Guri dam, which serves two-thirds of national power needs.
Officials have said the El Niño weather phenomenon is responsible, but critics have said the government is to blame for inadequate investment, corruption, inefficiency and failure to diversify energy sources.