Chile: Trade unionists, left organisations call for workers’ congress to tackle covid-19 crisis

The following joint declaration was initiated by trade union figures, and left organisations, in Chile, including members of Socialismo Revolucionario (Chilean section of the CWI):

Once again, the workers and the peoples of the world are being threatened by a massive deepening crisis of capitalism. As the IMF argued only a few days ago, the restrictive measures that states have taken to control the spreading of Covid-19 have sunk the world economy into a terrible recession, which has been announced with a wave of closures and lay-offs throughout the globe.

Faced with the dimensions of the health and economic crisis, the employers of the world and their governments have not been capable of putting forward a real solution. All they have done has been limited to a series of measures aimed at safeguarding their profits, offering millionaires loans to save them, without any more perspective than simply “weathering the crisis”. It is very clear that the bill will be presented to the working class, to place on our backs all the weight of this crisis. This will demand, in a systematic manner, that we pay with our lives, without providing effective health measures to prevent the spreading of the virus.

It is no different in Chile. Only a few days ago, the same Piñera [Chilean president] announced the repeal of the “Law of employment protection”, which is one of the most terrible and violent measures to rob the working class.  Basically, the coronavirus has ended the debate, and now the Work Directive allows the employer to suspend the payment of wages when a state of quarantine has been declared. The new law not only threatens us with the imminent risk of them not paying wages, but they say we have to use our savings while the virus is spreading.

In addition to this, they have failed to decree a systematic effective quarantine to protect the health of the workers. At the same, they have begun to lay off workers in different areas, leaving the families of workers totally undefended.

Face with this critical situation our response is not to wait. From various parts of the world, workers are attempting to safeguard our lives, by not carrying out non-essential work, while, at the same time, doing what is necessary, especially to guarantee food supplies. In this situation, there are thousands of workers in transport, commerce, mining, the forestry sector and others, which have raised the demands for decent health conditions at work, denouncing each case of injustice that we have seen.

It is crucial for the Chilean workers not only to maintain this resistance when faced with the criminal actions of the state and the employers but to go further. We need, step by step, to build the tools necessary to confront the capitalist crisis which today is manifesting itself in a terrible economic crisis and a crisis of the regime and health. It is necessary to go further and organize ourselves bypassing the passivity and lack of action by the trade union leaders. They have made a pact with this illegitimate government that has only survived since 18 October 2019 through vicious violations of human rights and the betrayal of the centre left parties.

No more lay-offs or reduction in salaries or unnecessary exposure to the virus and no price increases! The big capitalist companies must guarantee the wages of the workers, and the state must subsidize small and medium size companies. Nationalisation under democratic workers’ control of any company that closes and of the privatised health system. Total quarantine for workers! Maintain all basic services and food distribution. Reduce the working week to increase employment, with no loss in pay. Provide health kits freeze prices of them.

These are the demands that the workers have put on the table and we need to organize a struggle to win them. In our trade unions we need to remove those leaders that have only formed a pact with the government and the employers. Where they do not exist, we need to form Emergency Committees of the workers in the work places. We need to form Food Committees in the workers’ districts, to ensure food supplies, and committees of the unemployed to fight for jobs with decent pay and conditions. We need to bring this together through the convening of a congress of all workers, at national level, to organize a struggle for this programme.

We, the working class, are the only force that can take humanity and the world out of the debacle that the employers and their economic system and government have thrown us into. Only by organising ourselves independently, in the organisations we have called for, and by the planning of a general strike, can we take the necessary steps to confront this crisis, and assure the future for our class, our families, the planet and humanity.

Arile Encina, President of the Sindicato Maestranza in San Marco (education union)

Cynthia Burgos, President of AFIPES (Asociación de Funcionarios/as Públicos del Sector Pesca)

Horacio Díaz, Federacion de Sindicatos de la Ingeniería (Engineering Trade Union Federation)

Ricardo Vásquez, secretario de Sindicato de Starbucks

Vilma Álvarez, Presidenta del Sindicato Jumbo Portal La Dehesa

Corriente Sindical Obrera

Unidad Territorial 1 de la Asamblea de San Miguel (San Miguel local Assembly)

Celso Calfullan, Editor of Werken Rojo

Gustavo Burgos, Grupo de 1st de Mayo

José Miguel, doctor of Human Rights Medical College in the Valpariso Region

Partido Obrero Revoluvionario – Prensa Obrera

Socialismo Revolucionario




Liked this article? We need your support to improve our work. Please become a Patron! and support our work
Become a patron at Patreon!