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Sender: owner-imap@webmap.missouri.edu
Date: Sat, 27 Sep 97 13:14:30 CDT
From: rich@pencil.CC.WAYNE.EDU (Rich Winkel)
Organization: PACH
Subject: Chile's Labor Laws Molded Under Dictatorship
Article: 18826

/** labr.global: 278.0 **/
** Topic: Chile's Labr Laws Molded Under Dictatorship **
** Written 4:47 PM Sep 26, 1997 by labornews in cdp:labr.global **

Chile's Labor Laws Molded Under Dictatorship

From ICFTU Online 243/970923/DD
23 September 1997

Labour standards in Chile carry marks of military regime says ICFTU report

Brussels, September 23 1997 (ICFTU OnLine): A new report on trade union rights in Chile issued by the ICFTU today, to coincide with a World Trade Organisation trade review of the same country, has concluded that the climate of anti-trade unionism which was a clear feature of the Pinochet dictatorship still prevails today.

Although some of the most extreme restrictions on trade unions passed during the Pinochet era have been repealed, many judicial institutions still hold the anti-union attitudes of the military dictatorship (1973 to 1989). In addition, the government has not yet ratified two core ILO Conventions - 87 on the right to form trade unions, and 98 on the right to organise.

The current Labour Code makes it difficult for trade unions to organise in many sectors, so, for example, unions are banned for public sector employees, and many employees in other sectors are still covered by individual contracts, initiated during military rule. Some of these contracts stipulate that employees may not participate in collective bargaining.

Ministers still have to approve the formation of a trade union, and the election of its leaders, and some prospective trade unionists have had to go underground to avoid government persecution, Last October the government began to openly repress workers, as when workers arrived for a demonstration at the headquarters of the Chilean union centre, CUT, they were attacked by police using tear gas, truncheons and armoured cars.

Employers have also been slow to adapt to new employment practices, and companies frequently invoke the 'needs of the company' clause to fire workers.

The CUT, has proposed new labour law reforms to improve union rights, but these have been rejected by the government, which presented its own labour code. However, even this has been blocked by parliament, such is the weakness of the current democracy to overcome its recent military past.

The ICFTU report also describes discrimination against women workers in Chile. Although the 1994 labour code prohibits discrimination, a study by the national women's service (SERNAM) found that the average earnings for female heads of household were only 71% of those of male heads. Women with no schooling received 87% of the wages of their male counterparts in a similar position, while female heads of household with university qualifications earned only 57% as much as their male counterparts. In any case, employers appear to be reluctant to recruit women for fear that they might become pregnant and seek maternity leave, and there have also been cases of women forced to take pregnancy tests before being offered work.

There is also evidence of child labour in Chile. The UN children's agency - UNICEF have estimated that over 100,000 youngsters between the ages of 12 and 19 are working in the informal sector, the majority of them from households headed by single women. With 25% of the population below the poverty line, it appears that for some families child labour is their only source of income.

The ICFTU report on Chile's labour standards has been produced to complement the trade policy review being undertaken by the World Trade Organisation, published September 23/24. At its Ministerial meeting in Singapore last December, the WTO members agreed to work with the ILO to ensure that WTO members observed ILO standards. The ICFTU is asking the WTO to remind the Chilean government of this commitment, and to work with the ILO to ensure that these standards are implemented.

Contact: ICFTU Press, tel.:++32 224 02 02 (Brussels)

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