ITUC, TUCA and CUT-Chile testified before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

On October 29, ITUC, TUCA and CUT-Chile testified before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in Washington, D.C., on the widespread violations of freedom of association in law and in practice.

The commissioners expressed concern that a labour law with its roots in the Pinochet era remains on the books – being a “stain” on the nation. Commissioner Antoine, Rapporteur for Chile and head of the Unit for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, in particular expressed serious concern and furthermore spoke to the importance of the ILO and in particular its jurisprudence on the right to strike. The commissioners also repeatedly noted that the representatives of the government failed to respond to the specific allegations of the union petitioners.

While thematic hearings do not directly result in a binding “decision”, the commission subsequently met with the union delegation and expressed potential interest in an official visit to Chile in 2014 to further press this issue of freedom of association in Chile, and to include the promotion of trade union rights in the work of the Unit for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

In its final press release, the Inter-American Commission made special note of the Chile case :

"The Commission also received information on obstacles and restrictions to the right of free association, which are said to be hampering the right of workers to unionize. Specifically, organizations in different hearings mentioned the existence of legal mechanisms some States are said to be developing to hamper and restrict the right to free association… In addition, the IACHR received information on alleged restrictions on the free association of workers and union leaders in Chile and Venezuela, both States of which have imposed legal limitations on workers’ ability to freely belong to a trade union association…. The Commission reiterates that the right to association is a human right, one that is essential for the consolidation of democratic societies, and that any restriction must be justified by an imperative social interest.

In particular, in a hearing on union freedom in Chile, the Commission received information from the petitioners indicating that Chilean law on union rights has reportedly been in effect since the era of the dictatorship. According to the information received, this legislation significantly restricts the exercise of the right to freedom of association. In particular, the petitioners indicated that there are restrictions on the right to strike and limitation on collective bargaining, among other laws they cited as problematic.

For its part, the State presented detailed information on the legislation in question, and emphasized that during the current government, unemployment had dropped by 3.3%, with the creation of close to 826,000 jobs, of which 67% corresponded to salaried employment. It added that the increase in employment had been accompanied by measures tending to expand protection of worker rights and improve working conditions. The government delegation also said that job security had increased in all economic activities and that efforts designed to improve workers’ quality of life are being reflected in the different laws passed and bills presented to the National Congress."

The video of the hearing is available here

The final press release of the Commission is here
In Spanish

ITUC, TUCA and CUT-Chile are exploring bringing contentious cases before the commission on violations of trade union rights in Chile.