Chilean Barbara Figueroa awarded Arthur Svensson Prize 2020

Chilean trade union leader Barbara Figueora has been awarded the prestigious Arthur Svensson International Prize for Trade Union Rights, in recognition of her commitment as the leader of CUT Chile in fighting for social justice.

In 2012, Barbara Figueroa became the youngest unionist and first woman to be elected as president of CUT Chile and, overall, at the top position of a major trade union centre in Latin America. One of her main tasks in the job was to lead the negotiations over a labour reform that would start the deconstruction of the laws imposed on workers by the Pinochet dictatorship.

Last year, as Chile experienced a wave of mass protests, Figueroa was on the front line of the struggle against inequality and demanding free public services for all. Despite the government’s brutal crackdown on activists, pressure from trade unions and civil society eventually forced political parties to agree to a referendum on replacing the country’s Pinochet-era constitution.

“Barbara belongs to a new generation of trade unionists and is committed to organising and fighting injustice side by side with working people. Chile is right now at a crossroads, and this prize is a deserved recognition to a leader who is fully devoted to ensuring a fair and equal society by building workers’ power,” said ITUC General Secretary Sharan Burrow.

The privatised nature of public services and social security in Chile makes it one of the most vulnerable countries in the world to the COVID-19 pandemic. Last week, Figueroa denounced emergency laws passed by the government suspending employment contracts, salaries and extending working hours through telework.

About the award