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Cablegate: Chile: Public Workers' Strike Ends After 4 Days Of

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DE RUEHSG #1025 3291145
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 241145Z NOV 08
FM AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3981
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES 1145
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA 5811
RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION 3638
RUEHPE/AMEMBASSY LIMA 5812
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 0539
RUEHC/DEPT OF LABOR WASHDC

UNCLAS SANTIAGO 001025

SIPDIS

STATE FOR WHA/BSC, DRL/ILCSR
LABOR FOR ILAB--CHANTENIA GAY

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ELAB SOCI PGOV ECON CI
SUBJECT: CHILE: PUBLIC WORKERS' STRIKE ENDS AFTER 4 DAYS OF
PARALYZING GOVERNMENT SERVICES

1. The four day strike of Chilean public workers ended November 20
with an announcement of a 10 percent salary increase. The strike
had halted the work of 70 percent of public employees. The Chilean
Senate approved the 10 percent adjustment in a night session on
November 20, and the Chamber of Deputies approved the measure
November 21. Following Senate approval of the government's proposed
adjustment, fifteen representatives from local unions organized by
the National Association of Federal Employees (ANEF) agreed to end
the strike.

2. The 10 percent hike is a compromise between the GOC; original
6.5 percent offer and the 14.5 percent ANEF demanded. ANEF
justified its demands citing the need to make up for last year's
lower salary raise and the current 9.9 percent annual inflation
rate, the highest rate in 14 years.

3. Carmen Espinoza, the National Director of the Program for
Economy and Work (PET), a labor studies institute, told EPOL staff
November 18 that the workers' strike is "one of the most serious
labor movements in recent years." She predicted the outcome of this
strike would also influence private sector employees renegotiate
their wages. She stated that a yearly readjustment of wages is
necessary and noted a strike of this magnitude was needed pressure
on the GOC. Salvador Castro, President of the Confederation and
National Federation for Metal workers, Mining, and Automobiles
(CONFESTEMA) took a different view. Castro told EPOL staff November
19 that the laws were very clear in this case and that many of the
involved public sector employees were striking illegally. A strike
of this nature and magnitude was not justified, Castro said, because
of its effects on public health and necessary services.

4. The strike caused the four day closing or slowing of many GOC
operations including those of the civil registry, customs, public
hospitals, the courts, and waste management. Media highlighted that
one woman died in Puerto Montt, allegedly for failing to receive
emergency treatment; 40,000 children did not attend preschool; 400
surgeries had been postponed; and 30,000 people had not received
primary health services. Some Embassy operations, including customs
and mail delivery, were also affected, although many government
employees, including MFA officials, continued to make themselves
available to the Embassy during the strike. The strike is estimated
to have caused a 600 million dollar economic loss. GOC operations
reopened November 21 but many say it will take up to a week to
return to speed.

5. Comment: This was one of the largest strikes in Chile in recent
history. While there are strong unions in Chile, overall
unionization rates are low. The level of organization and number of
employees involved in this movement was surprising and could spark a
rise in the influence of unions in the Chilean workplace. End
Comment

SIMONS

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