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Long and narrow, Chile clings to the western edge of South America's South­ern Cone. Hugging - page 33 / 46





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Chile                                   469

expensive to fire workers. The old code allowed employers to fire workers with­out showing cause and to hire replacements during strikes. Second, the bill sought to establish collective negotiation by economic sector (rather than on a company-by-company basis as under existing law) and to expand items for col­lective negotiation. Third, the bill mandated that nonunion employees would be obligated to pay union dues if they benefitted from union-negotiated con­tracts. This stopped short of a key CUT demand: mandatory union enrollment.

The Chilean private sector, represented by the -Confederacion de la Pro-duccion y Comercio, along with conservative political parties, consistently opposed all of these measures. Their majority in the Senate—aided by the appointed senators—forced the Concertacion to negotiate point by point and the bill soon bogged down in the legislature. Meanwhile, the CPC took ad­vantage of its privileged access to government officials to strenuously lobby against the bill. Their efforts gutted the proposed reforms, which already represented the bare minimum of organized labor's agenda. Collective ne­gotiation by sector was not approved, nor would non union members have to pay fees for union-negotiated benefits. Issues subject to collective negoti­ation were expanded a little. Labor won the most with respect to job secu­rity clauses through the imposition of higher severance pay.

Organized labor did not fare any better under the second Concertacion ad­ministration of Eduardo Frei, Jr. His government introduced a bill intended to strengthen unions and collective bargaining in January 1995. Even less inclined to negotiate than during the Aylwin administration, conservatives exercised their veto power in the Senate to stall the bill permanently. Direct lobbying on the presidency by the CPC prevented the cautious Frei administration from pushing the bill more forcefully through the legislative process.

On balance, then, the first two Concertacion administrations sought to strengthen job security, unions, and their ability to conduct collective bar­gaining. The Aylwin administration had a little more success than Fret's gov­ernment, but the private sector and conservative parties won on most core issues in both. During Aylwin's government both the private sector and CUT were willing to negotiate on some issues, but the membership of these or­ganizations resented the "softness" of their leadership, which contributed to a hardening of more polarized postures by both the CPC and the CUT in the Frei government. Moreover, the Concertacion's lack of unqualified and vigorous support of labor's core demands has cooled relations between or­ganized labor and the governing coalition. It remains to be seen whether Ricardo Lagos' government will have more success than his predecessors.

The upshot of these legislative disputes was that unionized labor initially increased after democratization, only to suffer a clear decline. As a percent­age of the employed labor force, unionized workers increased from 10 per­cent in 1986 to 15 percent in 1992, and steadily declined to 11.3 percent in 1998. The figures look slightly better when calculated for regular wage-earn­ing workers. In 1986, 14.2 percent of wage earners were union, reaching a high of 22 percent in 1992 and dropping to 16.3 percent by 1997.

Lack of success in reforming the military government's labor laws— especially with respect to sectoral negotiation and collective bargaining—

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