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Copper workers face threats in Chile

3 September, 2018Leaders of the trade unions representing workers at Chile’s state-owned copper company Codelco are receiving threats over their union work.

Miguel Veliz, leader of union No. 3 of Codelco’s Chuquicamata mine, had a stone thrown at his car on 22 August. The perpetrators left a note in which they threatened the leader.

The stone had a message attached to it containing anti-union slogans. They are trying to scare us away from our union work – but they won't succeed. The incident is reported to the district attorney, together with the names of all those who have threatened me in the last month. I call on the government to take steps to prevent this from happening again,

said Veliz.

Union No. 3 is part of the Copper Workers’ Federation (FTC), affiliated to IndustriALL Global Union. The FTC National Governing Board has condemned the threats and other attacks against union leaders:

We condemn and are outraged by these anonymous acts to intimidate Codelco workers. Such violence generates fear and endangers people's safety,

the board said in a statement.

The board also insisted that it would do everything it could to ensure that the investigation conducted by the relevant authorities resulted in the perpetrators of these attacks being identified and the full severity of the law applied.

The governing body of Union No. 3 issued a statement condemning the attack on its leader. In the same statement, it said that Ana Catalán, President of the Gabriela Mistral Union of Professional Workers and Analysts, had also been threatened.

Catalán received death threats in a phone call on 21 August, and was told not to attend negotiations organized by Codelco's management.

It's terrible that people try and prevent us from doing our job and protecting the rights of our workers. Our conviction has not changed – we will continue to work to further the negotiations and achieve the best possible outcome,

said Catalán.

Union No. 3 stated that it had already taken steps with authorities, and called on Chile’s government to intervene in order to ensure that those threatening freedom of association are held accountable.

IndustriALL regional secretary Marino Vani says:

We condemn these cowardly acts and hope this will be resolved as quickly as possible. Workers must be able to exercise union rights without fear of reprisals. We call on Codelco to continue dialogue with the unions in good faith and to reach an agreement in the collective negotiations