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Trade Union Revitalisation

Trends and Prospects in 34 Countries

Edited By Craig Phelan

Although trade unionism has been declining in virtually every part of the world, its continued demise is not a foregone conclusion. As it has throughout its history, trade unionism has demonstrated a capacity to adapt, to make its voice heard, to reassert its power. The scale and scope of experimentation taking place in the labour movement today is testimony not just to the depth of the crisis but also to the possibility of resurgence in the years ahead. This book is an essential resource for anyone wishing to know about contemporary labour issues. It offers a comprehensive introduction to the state of trade unionism in the world today, and the often innovative strategies and tactics trade unionists are using to revive their organisations in each of the major nations of the world. Leading labour scholars discuss, in clear prose, the health of the trade union movement, the present political and economic climate for trade union advancement, the dominant revitalisation strategies, and future prospects in each nation. Each chapter includes an up-to-date guide to further reading.


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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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