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2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Chile

Publisher International Trade Union Confederation
Publication Date 6 June 2012
Cite as International Trade Union Confederation, 2012 Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights - Chile, 6 June 2012, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4fd8895ac.html [accessed 18 September 2014]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Population: 17,114,000
Capital: Santiago

ILO Core Conventions Ratified:

29 (Forced Labour (1930))
87 (Freedom of Association and Protection of the Right to Organise (1948))
98 (Right to Organise and Collective Bargaining (1949))
100 (Equal Remuneration for Work of Equal Value (1951))
105 (Abolition of Forced Labour (1957))
111 (Discrimination in Employment and Occupation (1958))
138 (Minimum Age for Employment (1973))
182 (Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention (1999))

Reported Violations – 2012

Dismissals: 6

Documented violations – actual number of cases may be higher

Introduction

Violations of freedom of association persisted in the private sector during 2011. The Labour Directorate placed 107 fines on companies for anti-union practices. Collective bargaining rights were also violated in the mining, health and textile sectors.

Background

Chile was the scene of mass marches, protests and strikes during 2011. A general strike mobilising workers, teachers and students, called by the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores de Chile (CUT), brought the country to a standstill on 24 and 25 August. The demands presented to President Piñera's government included free education, universal access to health care, better social security cover, new labour legislation and a new constitution. The Trade Union Confederation of the Americas (TUCA) and the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) backed the demands. The demonstrations met with brutal police repression.

Chile has the highest per-capita income in the region. It is the first South American country to have been admitted as a full member of the OECD, which groups the world's most developed economies, thus recognising the economic progress and major institutional reforms achieved in recent decades. This success has not, however, led to improved labour conditions. The unemployment rate for 2011 was over 7%, unions were only present in 5.5% of companies, the rate of union membership was only 13.6% and collective bargaining is marginal, covering just 4%.

In April 2011, Chile ratified ILO Convention 187 on the promotional framework for occupational health and safety.

Trade union rights in law

Problematic areas exist in the labour law despite basic trade union rights being guaranteed. Workers have the right to join and form unions without prior authorisation. However, the law grants broad powers to the Directorate of Labour to supervise the accounts and financial and property transactions of unions.

Collective bargaining is only guaranteed at the company level. In addition, it is of a "voluntary" nature, and is cumbersome for higher-level union organisations and union alliances. The right is further circumscribed by the fact that many workers in state-sponsored entities are excluded from collective bargaining, as are workers with apprenticeship contracts and those employed for specific tasks. Non-union workers are also allowed to propose collective agreements, even if a union exists at the workplace.

Furthermore, while the right to strike is recognised, there are many limitations. A lawful strike must be approved by an absolute majority of the employees of an enterprise, disputes can be referred to compulsory arbitration in many companies, and all strikes must be carried out within three days of the decision to call it. Workers in the public sector are prohibited from striking. Under certain circumstances, the President can order the resumption of work, and striking workers can also be replaced. Finally, those who participate in an unlawful strike can face imprisonment or banishment to a different region.

Link to additional detailed information regarding the legislation on the ITUC website here

In practice

Refusal to negotiate at Barrick Gold mine: In February 2011, the union of workers employed by Consorcio Colorada Punta, a Barrick Gold subcontractor, held a stoppage in protest at the company's refusal to negotiate better health and safety and working conditions. The miners are working in very harsh environmental conditions. The union is demanding negotiations with Barrick Gold, given that any decisions ultimately depend on the corporation. The company remained firm in its refusal to recognise its obligations in terms of workers' rights.

Lencería Antonella refuses to negotiate: The Federación de Sindicatos Complementos Chile led an eight-day protest in December 2011 against lingerie manufacturer Lencería Antonella over its refusal to hold collective negotiations on working conditions. The union is asking the company to pay on time and to meet its labour obligations.

Hundred and seven fines issued for anti-union practices: The Labour Directorate penalised 107 companies for anti-union practices during 2011. The offence most punished was the unfair dismissal of workers with trade union immunity. The firms, as well as having their names published in the list of violating companies, received a fine and a two-year ban on supplying goods or services to the state. The CUT denounced that many of the companies pay the fine and then continue with their anti-union practices.

Violations

Anti-union dismissals at Hospital DIPRECA:

In September 2011, six workers at Hospital DIPRECA were fired without severance pay, on the pretext that they were "misusing sick leave", when they were in fact ill. The union underlined that the workers were union members or representatives and that this was the real motive for their dismissal.

The hospital authorities were also accused of harassing trade union representatives. These violations form part of a long list of irregularities linked to charges pressed against the union secretary and treasurer at Hospital DIPRECA, who were informed that an investigation was underway based on allegations that they had "incited public servants to take part in the general strike on 24 and 25 August".

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