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10. Trade Unions and Employers Associations

Brief Description of Employees’ and Employers’ Associations

The Chilean Constitution establishes the freedom of association and unionisation for everyone, which is why, in Chile, collective relations of employees are organised into unions; defined as any grouping of employees, more or less permanent, with a purpose of defending their collective professional interests.

In general terms, the types of unions include:

  • company union: groups employees from the same company;
  • inter-company union: groups employees from two or more different employers;
  • union of independent employees: groups together employees who are not dependent on any employer;
  • union of eventual or transitory employees: made up of employees who perform work under dependency and subordination, in cyclical periods.

Employers can also amalgamate, for example, through trade associations; defined as organisations of natural or legal persons, formed with the purpose of promoting the rationalisation, development and protection of the activities which are common to them by reason of their profession, trades or branch of production or services, and those related to such common activities, such as the National Chamber of Commerce.

Rights and Importance of Trade Unions

The union’s board of directors represents the union judicially and extra-judicially.

Number of Representatives

The number of directors must be freely fixed in the bylaws of the union, except in those unions with less than 25 members, in which case, they will be directed by one union director, who must act as president and who enjoys labour protection. However, labour permissions and protections that the law grants to union directors, correspond exclusively as follows:

  • union that gathers between 25 and 249 members: 3 directors
  • union that groups between 250 and 999 members: 5 directors
  • union having between 1,000 and 2,999 members: 7 directors
  • union formed by 3,000 or more members: 9 directors
  • company syndicates, with presence in two or more regions and gathering 3,000 or more members: 11 directors.

Appointment of Representatives

The union’s bylaws should regulate the method, opportunity and publicity in which nominations are to be made. In the event that the bylaws do not regulate this matter, the law will determine the manner of such proceedings; and provides that nominations must be submitted, in writing, to the secretary of the union, no earlier than 15 days, but no later than 2 days, prior to the election. The secretary must communicate the nomination to the Labour Department. Thereafter, the candidates who obtain the highest relative majorities will be elected as directors of the union.

Tasks and Obligations of Representatives

In general, representatives must carry out all of the activities contemplated in the bylaws of the union and which are not otherwise prohibited by law. Their fundamental purpose is to provide representation to the union members and to protect the employees.

Employees’ Representation in Management

The bylaws of the unions should establish the entities responsible for verifying the electoral procedures and the acts that must be carried out to express the collective will. In addition, the bylaws must establish the number of votes to which each member is entitled and must adopt measures to ensure respect for minorities. Furthermore, the bylaws must regulate the control mechanisms and the annual accounting, which the board of directors must submit to the assembly of members.

Other Types of Employee Representative Bodies

Health and Safety Committee: mandatory in companies with more than 25 employees; must be composed of three representatives of the employer and three representatives of the employees, whose decisions are binding for the company. This committee serves to detect and evaluate the risks of accidents and occupational diseases that employees may suffer.

Bipartite Training Committee: mandatory in companies with 15 or more employees; must be composed of three representatives of the employer and three representatives of the employees. Its function is to evaluate and agree upon the occupational training program(s) of the company and to advise the company’s management on training matters.

Any questions

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