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Chilean Workers Arrested In Protest Over Economy

    Protesting the growing economic inequality in Chile, thousands of workers demonstrated in late August and were met with a harsh crackdown by the government of Michelle Bachelet.

    "We are appalled at the Chilean authorities who met a peaceful protest with a serious and violent response," Labor Rights Now President Don Stillman said on August 30. "The Bachelet government must release immediately and unconditionally the 260 demonstrators who have been arrested."

    Chilean police turned water cannons on the union demonstrators who had marched through the streets of Santiago.

    Members of the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores (CUT) and the Central Autonoma de Trabajadores (CAT) participated in the protest over the employment situation in Chile. The unions there have called for more equal distribution of the country's wealth and welfare assistance for the least advantaged.

    Unionists urged the Chilean government to adopt policies that would create jobs and help the unemployed and poor. Chile is the world's biggest producer and exporter of copper, which has risen in price to as much as $3.71 a pound in 2007 from a low of 60 cents in 2001. State revenue has benefited from the two-year surge in copper prices.

    The CUT and CAT labor federations blasted Chile's "neo-liberal" economic model and demanded the boost in social spending in the 2008 budget.

Copper Strikers Arrested in Chile in Pay Dispute

    In an unusual case for a democratic country, Labor Rights Now intervened with Chilean authorities on behalf of more than 40 workers arrested on January 4, 2006 in the city of Rancagua during a bargaining dispute over pay at Codelco, Chile's state-owned copper company.

    With copper prices at a record level on the world market, the strikers reportedly sought bonus payments reflecting Codelco's prosperity. Labor Rights Now argued that the place to resolve the strike was at the bargaining table and that, rather than arresting workers, the Chilean government should encourage both sides to arrive at a fair and equitable settlement.

More Information

ICFTU's Annual Survey of Violations of Trade Union Rights in Chile

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