Chile: Earthquake

Facing the social earthquake, with solidarity and unity

Following the earthquake and the tsunami, a social earthquake is now going on, especially in the worst affected areas. The dangers of epidemics are increasing, while the hospital infrastructures have partially collapsed. Thousands of workers will be laid off, hundreds of companies will reduce their workforces. The case of the Araucano Hotel in Concepcion is a warning of what is now looming. All of its rooms are vacant and it is now proceeding to sack all of its employees.

Thousands of families are left homeless, or living in emergency housing, with no sewage system to empty wastewater. Most people also lack any functioning bathroom and toilet. They are exposed to the worsening weather as the days are growing colder and the rains are arriving. Many other families are living in houses damaged by the quake. Families had to evacuate buildings, mostly new ones, facing the risk of structural damage.

Thousands of families are left homeless, exposed to the worsening weather as the days are growing colder and the rains are arriving

The profitable real estate business is based on a triple partnership between builders, real estate and banks. Earthquakes are inevitable, but the anti-seismic building standards should have prevented the severe damages, and of course the collapse or forced demolition of buildings. Banks, real-estate and construction, all three sectors are responsible for the catastrophe and we must demand that all three answer jointly in cases of losses of housing.

Banks are offering two months of grace for mortgage payments; this is really a bitter joke for those who have lost their homes, and now are required to keep paying the dividend for two or three decades. They are paying for houses they cannot use, and for which they have, moreover, to pay a rent.

This is a major social problem. In order to ensure a future for those affected, we demand:

• The cancellation of mortgage debt, for all the owners of damaged and uninhabitable houses, without compensation in cases where banks have endorsed buildings constructed below the normal standards.

• The nationalisation of the construction industry and banks and the drawing up of a democratically controlled and worked out emergency plan;

• The cancellation of the bank debts for the handcrafted fishermen, the small merchants or small businessmen in the zones most affected by the disaster;

• The waiving of taxes for the handcrafted fishermen and the small businessmen, affected, while the emergency continues;

• That the "real-estate looters" who built houses below the anti seismic norms, return all the money and face civil and criminal prosecution;

• Subsidies for the construction, partial or total, of the housing;

• That the government immediately implements plans for cleanup and reconstruction work, ensuring that the workers who became unemployed as a result of the earthquake and the tsunami are included in a plan for reconstruction, and be guaranteed work.

It is urgent that workers and their families gather around their unions to defend themselves from the threatening misery.

The dock workers from the VIII region are in a dramatic situation, their ports have been destroyed or severely damaged, but they are also giving an example of the will of the people to stand and fight together. Below we are reproducing a statement that reached our editorial:

Communiqué from the dock workers of Bio Bío


In an extraordinary meeting held in the city of San Pedro with the leaders of the Puerto del Coronel, Cape Froward, San Vicente Talcahuano and Muelle cap-MABE, were taken some views and opinions to be adopted by the leaders and the regional union of the port of Bio Bio.

After taking knowledge of the reality and situation of each port it was concluded that:

• the port terminal of San Vincente is operating with only one site, another site is still under evaluation and the other site is inoperable

• The Muelle de Huachipato, is facing its two sites with damage and with the production of Cap paralyzed by the damage to its production departments.

• the fiscal terminal of Talcahuano faces total destruction

• the port terminal of Cabo Froward faces partial damages and is at the present time facing the impossibility to operate.

• The terminal of Coronel is facing the paralysation of the operations at the wharf 1, the wharf 2 is usable.

As far as the situation of the trade union headquarters is concerned, the most damaged is the Packers’ union of Talcahuano and the Longshoremen’s union of San Vicente.

Faced with this labour and social situation lived by the port workers of the region of Bio Bio, we appeal for the solidarity of workers of Chile and of the world to alleviate partially the economic conditions of the port workers which will almost certainly continue for several more months to be critical.

Fight on a unified and forceful basis the intentions of the private port terminals to lay off workers or to avoid their social responsibility in front of this mega earthquake and tsunami.

Maintain and defend the few jobs, even the cleaning ones, unite not to give the companies any space to reallocate jobs to other non-unionized workers.

Although it is still very early, we must insist on setting a table with the incoming government to generate subsistence, indemnifications or retirement allowances to all the workers affected in their jobs.

Denounce any anti-union situation on behalf of the maritime companies against the workers, and also assess when companies have collaborated and supported the workers in distress.

The leaders will have an important role to play in the communication field, to transfer the information, as well as to boost the morale, to motivate and coordinate the aid to the workers and their families.

The leaders and their organizations must work for the solidarity between dockworkers with those most affected.

The leaders and their organizations must work on a short and concrete process for the local, communal and regional unity, covered by organizations that defend and represent all the port workers.


San Pedro de La Paz, Tuesday 11 March, 2010

Urgent appeal for further aid

The CWI urges its supporters, especially in the trade unions, to take urgent action on this issue. For material and financial solidarity, or messages of support, to the dockworkers, please send an e-mail to:

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