Population: 16,454,143
Capital: Santiago
ILO Core Conventions Ratified: 29 – 87 – 98 – 100 – 105 – 111 – 138 – 182

Progress has been made in monitoring the application of labour standards. There are still complaints against both private and public sector employers for their failure to respect trade union rights.

Trade union rights in law

Freedom of association – basic trade union rights recognised: Workers have the right to form unions without prior authorisation. The right to collective bargaining is recognised, as is the right to strike, but only in the private sector.

Collective bargaining restrictions: Collective bargaining is only guaranteed at the company level. The 2001 law provides for "voluntary" collective bargaining, meaning that trade unions can negotiate national deals only if the employer agrees. Similarly, while temporary workers – defined in the Labour Code as working in agriculture, construction, ports or the arts and entertainment sector – may form unions, they can only conduct collective bargaining if the employer is willing. Changes in the Labour Code facilitate collective bargaining in the agricultural sector, but it is still subject to the employers' willingness to negotiate. Company unions can only engage in collective bargaining if the respective employers are prepared to do so.

Restrictions on the right to strike: Workers in the public sector do not have the right to strike, although teachers, municipal workers and health workers have all carried out strikes in the past. In many companies, disputes are subject to compulsory arbitration. Strikes by agricultural workers are prohibited during the harvesting season.

Instead of outlawing the practice of sacking strikers, the new law makes it "prohibitively expensive" to lay off workers who have been involved in industrial action. The law also does not explicitly ban companies from employing workers to break picket lines during an industrial dispute.

The law also includes "flexibility" measures, such as the introduction of short-term contracts and looser regulations for employing young workers.

Subcontracting Act: The Subcontracting Act that came into force on 1 January 2007 establishes a system whereby companies must certify compliance with the labour and social security obligations of their contract and subcontract workers.

Protection: An employee has the right to sue for unfair dismissal within 60 days. If s/he is found to have been unfairly dismissed, a 30% surcharge will be added to the redundancy package. If a judge finds that a worker has been dismissed for trade union activities, s/he has the right to return to work or receive compensation. Some categories of workers are excluded from this clause.

Companies may be penalised for breaking labour laws and, every six months, the government publishes a list of companies that have breached labour laws.

Trade union rights in practice and violations in 2008

Complaints to Labour Observatory: Despite the existence of a Labour Observatory in Chile, run by the national trade union centre Central Unitaria de Trabajadores de Chile (CUT), which constitutes progress in monitoring the respect of labour standards, serious accusations persist, mainly regarding the private sector. Tactics such as intimidation, disaffiliation and dismissals are just some of the all too common anti-union practices in the world of work.

Twenty companies found guilty of anti-union practices in the first half of 2008: The Department of Labour published a list of 20 companies found guilty of anti-union practices. The unfair dismissal of trade union leaders or members was the principal cause for condemnation, followed by the harassment of trade unionists, the illegal replacement of striking workers and the failure to deduct and transfer trade union dues.

Anti-union practices reported at the Santa Isabel supermarket: Marianella Fernández, leader of the workers' union at the Santa Isabel supermarket, reported that on 21 April the company had applied to the courts for her trade union immunity to be withdrawn, accusing her of being disloyal and of harming the company's image. According to the trade unionist, the company simply wanted to silence her for her attempts to defend its workers' rights. The union lodged complaints against the company with the Labour Inspectorate for anti-union persecution and reported on the matter to the parliamentary Labour Commission, with the support of several members of Parliament.

Prosecutor reprimanded for anti-union practices: The national prosecutor Sabas Chahuán confirmed that a written censure motion had been passed against the prosecutor Alejandro Peña for three charges of anti-union practices. The charges were related to pressing for the disaffiliation of the civil servants' association in the southern region Public Prosecution Service, of which Peña is chief prosecutor, causing the disaffiliation of 16 people by this action, and seeking in this way to ensure that the organisation did not have enough members to operate.

Complaints of anti-union practices by retailers: Workers for the Hites retail chain lodged complaints with the Department of Labour about non-respect of the collective bargaining process. They accused Hites of trying to negotiate directly with the workers and ignoring the union in order to weaken it.

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