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Creation of a single industrial union in Chile - a "dream come true”

4 December, 2014“Four years ago, we began to build our union with a lot of hope in our hearts. We took an important step to strengthen and end the fragmentation of the trade union movement. After much effort and a lot of support from IndustriALL Global Union, we can say we are on the right path”, said Horacio Fuentes, in his opening speech at the founding congress of Industrial Chile.

The need for a union able to unify and recruit workers in the various sectors of industry resulted in the creation of the National Union of Manufacturing, Mining, Chemicals and Energy Industry Workers (Industrial Chile) on 28 November. “This marks the end of one stage in the process”, said Miguel Soto, the union’s general secretary, as he closed the eighth congress of the former National Confederation of Metalworkers.

It has taken four years to build the new industrial union, in a process that culminated in this congress and signalled an important and historic step forward in the history of the Chilean trade union movement. Delegates discussed changes in union structures and collective bargaining procedure. Fraternal organizations were invited to join the debate as the initiative is a project of IndustriALL Global Union and has enjoyed the support and solidarity of the Swedish union LO-TCO.

The work shouldered by CONSTRAMET in the middle of a period of important labour demands and reforms in the country received praise at the congress. Bárbara Figueroa, president of the CUT, commended the debate and called on all the union leaders present to participate in developing the country’s policies. Javiera Blanco, labour minister, said that by “strengthening collective bargaining, the unions will improve the labour environment, encourage greater understanding and promote social dialogue”.

The congress was attended by a delegation from IndustriALL head office in Geneva and the Latin America office in Uruguay, led by Fernando Lopes, IndustriALL’s assistant general secretary. He was accompanied by representatives of affiliated unions in Argentina, Mexico, Colombia, Brazil and Uruguay, who all praised the creation of an industrial union that will strengthen the fight against precarious work and the violation of workers’ rights.

Delegates discussed the new union’s statutes and organizers plan to seek official recognition under the name of Industrial Chile.

Delegates approved an action plan in a debate in which Miguel Soto emphasized the importance of ending the situation in which workers within the same company are represented by a large number of unions. “With training and a stronger union, incorporating women and regional unions, we shall achieve that”.

Delegates promised to implement the plan agreed at meetings that took place prior to the congress. This includes holding area seminars and meetings in the north, centre and south of the country to formulate a programme for each region. An important focus will be to develop a strong training programme that will prioritize UNITY and end the public perception that unions are run solely for the benefit of their own members.

In his closing speech to the congress, Horacio Fuentes, president of the union, pointed out the important responsibility that delegates bear in this process of strengthening organization and fighting fragmentation. “We have to be self-critical. We know that it is a complex task to build a union like this, but we know that it is possible. We must seek greater influence in shaping the country’s policies and we want to build our union by putting forward its own policies”.

“I urge you to continue fighting in this huge task”, concluded the president of Industrial Chile.