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New national industrial union takes shape in Chile

3 December, 2013At the eighth national conference of the Chilean metalworkers’ confederation (CONSTRAMET) on 21-23 November, delegates made progress in discussions on the organization of a new national industrial union. This was a significant step forward in the task of creating a union that will negotiate at sector level and cover all manufacturing and extractive industries where Industriall represents workers at the global level.

The conference opened at the offices of the Chilean central union CUT and was attended by the CUT president, Bárbara Figueroa, who described CONSTRAMET’s work in promoting unity and strengthening the union as visionary.

Horacio Fuentes, CONSTRAMET president, said:

Chile is changing and the people have gone out on to the streets to protest. Chilean society is more aware of its rights and is prepared to protest and raise its voice in support of structural changes in education, health, labour rights, environment, social welfare and the need to recover natural resources, to such an extent that all candidates in the presidential election had to respond to the demands made by the people.

At the opening of the conference Marino Vani, IndustriALL Global Union Assistant Regional Representative, who attended the entire conference, congratulated CONSTRAMET for its work on the four-year project to strengthen the union. He highlighted the need to organize outsourced and non-unionized workers and to increase trade union membership and the number of workers covered by collective employment contracts.

Our priority is to eradicate precarious work. Together we are strong, divided we are atomized,

he concluded.

The conference formed part of a trade union strengthening programme in Chile aimed at building a new trade union structure and developing new collective bargaining strategies, a process that is being spearheaded by CONSTRAMET, an IndustriALL affiliate. The project aims to strengthen the trade union movement by merging manufacturing industry unions in Chile.

The union’s eighth conference was attended by 135 leaders from 67 CONSTRAMET affiliates in all areas of the country and aimed to create the conditions and make the changes necessary to create a new trade union structure and develop collective bargaining at sector, sub-sector, geographical and holding company levels.

The second day of the conference was held at Mantagua, 149 km from the Chilean capital, where working groups discussed the statutes and structure of the new organization. Delegates met again in plenary on 23 November to finalize the conference’s conclusions.

The new union will have nine departments, including ones for retail, women, youth, metalworking, mining, chemicals, forestry and textiles and will be organized on an area and regional basis (North based in Antofagasta; South in Concepción).

CONSTRAMET said the conference's main achievements were as follows:

  • Approval of the new union's statutes;
  • Provision made for the new structure to begin operating and continue until November 2014, at which time it will also gain legal status;
  • Approval of union dues and approval of a restructured strike fund;
  • Approval of the union’s principles and objectives.

CONSTRAMET said it will draft a work plan in January 2014, focusing mainly on developing coordination with other industrial organizations, including the Private Sector Federation (Federación de la Minería Privada), Unionisation Mining Confederation (Confederación Minera de Sindicalización), FTC, Mining Contractors (Contratista de la Minería) and all those who want to be part of the new national union.

The union added that it will circulate the conference resolutions and that these resolutions made provision for ratification of the creation of the national union and its organization during 2014 in most towns where the main industries are located.