Bachelet’s Labor Policy Leaves No One Happy in Chile

Bachelet’s Labor Policy Leaves No One Happy in Chile
Public workers protest outside La Moneda presidential palace, Santiago, Chile, Nov. 17, 2016 (AP photo by Luis Hidalgo).

A nearly month-long strike by Chile’s public sector employees ended earlier this month after workers failed to win a pay increase of 7 percent and instead reluctantly accepted President Michelle Bachelet’s initial proposal of a 3.2 percent raise. In an email interview, Peter M. Siavelis, a professor of politics and international affairs and the director of the Latin American and Latino studies program at Wake Forest University, discusses labor relations in Chile.

WPR: What are the public sector’s grievances with President Michelle Bachelet’s administration, and how have they affected relations between the government and public employees?

Peter M. Siavelis: The recent strikes by public sector employees in Chile are part of a broader trend of deteriorating relations between social groups and the government that has developed during the second Bachelet government. When it comes to pensions, health care, education and the rights of indigenous people and minorities, there have been constant protests against what is perceived as the fundamental unfairness in the distribution of the fruits of Chile’s economic success during the past 30 years. This is coupled with the inability or unwillingness of the government to reform key institutional and policy legacies from the Pinochet dictatorship. State employees claim that they have also been victims of this injustice and lack of audacity in reforms, with the government turning a blind eye to their grievances. Public sector unions initially demanded a 7 percent increase in salaries, while the government stayed firm in its offer of 3.2 percent. These negotiations and strikes took place against a backdrop of a 4 percent annual inflation rate, meaning that the government’s offer would not even keep pace with steadily rising prices.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article as well as three free articles per month. You'll also receive our free email newsletter to stay up to date on all our coverage:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having your own personal researcher and analyst for news and events around the globe. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of 15,000+ articles
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday
  • Weekly in-depth reports on important issues and countries
  • Daily links to must-read news, analysis, and opinion from top sources around the globe, curated by our keen-eyed team of editors
  • Your choice of weekly region-specific newsletters, delivered to your inbox.
  • Smartphone- and tablet-friendly website.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.

More World Politics Review