For a broad campaign against the anti-union attacks of Ultraport Angamos in Mejillones

March 07, 2014

For a broad campaign against the anti-union attacks of Ultraport Angamos in Mejillones

March 7, 2014

After the Chilean dockworkers’ strike and mobilisations of last December and January, employers are now refusing to recognise the government-brokered agreement that ended the strike. Bosses are now refusing to pay dockworkers the previously agreed to one-off payment for unpaid half-hour breaks (colaciónes). In a warning to the bosses, dockworkers in a number of ports have resumed their demonstrations. The Government, once again running behind events, has announced the sending of a Bill to parliament that will set aside the funds needed to cover this back pay, while parliamentarians of the centre-left New Majority (Nueva Mayoría) coalition meet with leaders to legislate a new port regulation.

Yet again, behind this struggle a major conflict is brewing.

During the December-January strike, alongside the just struggle for colación back pay at the national level, in Mejillones the dockworkers of Angamos went for something more: the just demand for the right of the permanent and temporary workers (eventuales) to negotiate together, a demand which puts into question the Labour Code, still in place from the era of the Pinochet dictatorship.

The agreement reached at the negotiating table between the Government, the employers and the leaders of the Unión Portuaria de Chile (Dockworkers’ Union of Chile) achieved a one-off payment for colación back pay. But the demand of the Angamos dockworkers was ignored and their strike, their strike camp, these workers and their union all remain isolated.

Today these workers are paying the consequences.

Anti-union attacks: the bosses act with impunity
The Ultraport company are retaliating against dockworkers after the strike. They have proceeded to sack permanently employed dockworkers and refused to employ dozens of eventuales. More than 150 comrades have been affected. The company are upping the ante by attempting to remove legal immunity from prosecution (desafuero) from the leaders ofSindicato Número 2 Trabajadores Contratados y Eventuales Unidos (United Permanent and Temporary Workers’ Union Number 2) ofMejillones.

Ultraport is condemning these workers and their families to hunger. They will not stop until the union is too weak to fight.

Their actions are in clear retaliation for the fight that the dockworkers put up. The resentful bosses respond with impunity. They know that their actions are protected by the anti-worker Labour Code, by the forces of repression, by the mass media and by the Government that all allow them to get away with attacking the dockworkers.

Not content with this, the bosses draw up blacklists to try to prevent the workers from getting work with other employers in Mejillones or Antofagasta, and even in other Chilean ports.

But these are not the only attacks in response to the strike. The stevedoring bosses act in the interests of their class as a whole.

What is at stake is an attack on all workers
With the economic slowdown, the main inheritance of the Piñera government, the employing class attempts to make the workers pay the price with layoffs, wage cuts and the undermining of working conditions. Once again they demand greater labour flexibility and more casual and temporary employment.

Who will pay the costs of this crisis that has just begun? Who will come out on top in this game: the bosses or the workers?

This is why the discussion around labour reforms becomes decisive. The bosses want reforms for even more flexibility. Will the Labour Code be reformed? If so, will it once again be changed in favour of the bosses, or will it be changed in favour of the workers this time?

The latter will only be achieved with the methods of working class struggle. The strike at the Port of Angamos showed us this path. The bosses want to close this path off, bring the dockworkers to their knees and make an example of them in front of all workers.

It is necessary to stop the bosses in their tracks.

For a broad campaign against the anti-union attacks of Ultraport Angamos in Mejillones
In the face of this anti-union attack with its sackings, denial of work to temporary dockworkers and blacklists, the Partido de Trabajadores Revolucionarios (PTR – Revolutionary Workers’ Party) calls for the launching of a broad, united campaign of all union, student and local neighbourhood organizations, organizations of the left and human rights groups.

This campaign needs to begin raising its voice by demanding:

  • No to the ’desafuero’ of union leaders Enrique Solar “Mancha†and Richard Orellana
  • No to the attack on union organizations
  • No to the laying off of permanent dockworkers and the denial of work to temporary dockworkers
  • For an end to the persecution and criminalization of the workers who took part in the strikes
  • For the reinstatement of all Mejillones dockworkers who have been sacked or denied work. For full back pay for all dockworkers
  • Along with the use of the legal resources that the union has at hand, it is necessary to promote a declaration that contains these demands, to coordinate protests at each Ultraport site and to call for demonstrations and mobilisations. Only through our struggle and our organization can we win.