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Outsourced workers at food company in Chile out on strike

20 December, 201273 workers at the Chilean company WFS Food Services have been on strike for 14 days in support of their demand for a new collective agreement and in protest at anti-trade union practices.

In Concepción, in southern Chile, 70 women and 3 men, all members of the WFS Food Services union, affiliated to CONSTRAMET, are on strike because of the company’s failure to meet union demands in negotiations for a collective agreement.

The workers say the company has always tried to restrict trade union power within the company and complain that the company extends benefits won by unionised workers to non-union members. They also say the company tried to form a yellow union.

The union's demands include a 4% pay rise, food vouchers, a nightshift bonus and annual leave. The company provides services to a range of companies, for example, the University Hospital, fishing boats, paper mills, hydroelectricity stations and electricity companies.

The workers on strike have been loyal and enthusiastic participants at regional and national meetings organised by IndustriALL's Trade Union Strengthening project and their union is affiliated to Constramet, which is in turn affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union.

Maritza Contreras, union president, said:

There are 73 of us who are fighting to improve our conditions. We are determined but we realise we will not necessarily get all that we are asking for even though we are not asking for a lot, as you will have realised. We are fighting anti-trade union practices that try to take advantage of our vulnerability as outsourced workers. We do not have much protection and our company’s clients are threatening to end their contracts because of our strike, which however is legal.

She added:

This is the situation in our country and for our workers. We are very clear that we need unity in the trade union movement in order to change things and improve working conditions.

Jyrki Raina, IndustriALL Global-Union’s General Secretary, has written to the company repudiating its actions in particular its anti-trade union practices and has called on it to enter into genuine negotiations. The letter also reaffirmed his total solidarity with the workers and concluded:

We demand a resumption of dialogue and the negotiation of an agreement that benefits the workers and respects their right to conduct trade union activity.