Trends and Prospects in 34 Countries
Edited By Craig Phelan
The Difficult Road for Trade Unionism in Chile 131
VOLKER FRANK The Difficult Road for Trade Unionism in Chile 1. The Present State of Trade Unionism in Chile The present state of trade unionism in Chile, and more specifically that of the Chilean labour movement, defies easy explanation. Given the complex nature of Chilean labour legislation (there have been no less than three labour reforms, or attempts at such, since 1990); the complicated history of labour union-political party relations dating back to the late 1800s; the presence of a Centre-Left government co- alition since 1990; the persistence of Socialist and Communist unions and parties; an economy that is considered Latin America’s most suc- cessful (the country has held this ambivalent distinction since at least the mid-1980s when General Augusto Pinochet instructed his ‘Chi- cago boys’ to initiate far-reaching neoliberal reforms); and last but not least the structure of the Chilean labour movement itself (consider for example the strange fact that all top level unions leaders, including those of the national union organisation, the Central Unitaria de Trabajadores CUT, are also plant level union leaders), then any description of the present health of that country’s trade unionism is bound to overlook, overestimate, understate, or simply ignore, one or more important aspects. With this caveat in mind, and in order to afford the reader some sense of the present state of affairs, it may be useful to describe the Chilean labour movement as ambiguous. This ambiguity can be demonstrated though a brief look at the ‘good’ and ‘bad’ news. The good...
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