CARACAS, Venezuela (AP) _ Thousands of court clerks went on strike Tuesday in an effort to force the government to pay them the pay raise it promised them in March.

The protest came one day after President Carlos Andres Perez, whose government austerity program prompted violent protests in February, announced plans to increase benefits for the nation's workers and its poor.

Chanting ''We will not enter 3/8'' court functionaries locked the criminal and civil courts in central Caracas and congregated outside.

''Never mind a pay raise. We just want the raise that was already promised us,'' said Jorge Iturbe, a court clerk.

Iturbe said the 30 percent pay raise for civil servants decreed by the government in March had not been included in their pay checks. Clerks now earn from $100 to $200 a month.

The clerks said the daylong walkout was aimed at forcing the government to grant them the pay raise immediately. Increases for the public sector usually take several months to become effective.

The clerks jeered as National Guard troopers cut a chain that had shut the front doors. The soldiers retreated, and the doors were closed again.

Perez announced the 30 percent pay raise for government workers shortly after the riots, which left at least 300 dead and thousands injured.

The riots raised worldwide concerns about the Latin American economic crisis, the region's $410 billion foreign debt and falling world prices for its exports.

Inflation in Venezuela is estimated at 80 percent, and labor unrest is building.

The nation's largest union, the Confederation of Venezuelan Workers, called for a one-day nationwide strike on May 18, the first in the nation's 30-year democratic history.

Perez is under pressure by economic advisers to cut government spending and maintain the austerity measures designed to lead Venezuela towards a market- oriented economy.

On Monday, however, Perez announced the government would spent $540 million on a new series of public works projects, which he said would create 170,000 jobs in the next two years.

Perez also announced a program of direct subsidies for food intended for 600,000 poor families. The program would give target families $15 monthly per child, with a limit of up to three children.

He did not outline how the subsidies would be distributed.