translated from Spanish: Industrial relations, four decades under neoliberal orthodoxy

Much has been written and said about the survival of Chile’s post-dictatorship political-economic model. The Political Constitution of the Republic, plebiscited in 1980 in a historical moment characterized by the lack of electoral guarantees (absence of registrations) and in the absence of basic political freedoms by the prohibition of political parties, censorship and control over the media, limitations on the right of assembly and association, among others, enshrined an itinerary, which despite not foreseeing the election defeat of the single candidate of the Military Junta of 1989, provided a sophisticated system of lastres institutions that are difficult to modify in line with the high quorums required for reform, which have successfully pointed to the intangibility of the neoliberal political and economic model.
In the last three decades – marked in its beginning by the recovery of the democratic regime – all legislative reforms have been developed in the field of the defense of economic orthodoxy that their celators have deployed, supported by a complex system of institutions that act as bolts, beyond the constitutional amendments that have slowly allowed the dismantling of some of them. Over time, it has also been concurrent with the perpetuation of such institutionality. even the co-optation (under various avenues) of some representatives nominally attached to forces considered progressive (centre-left), who have acted as agents in favor of the status quo of the design of industrial relations described.
This picture is also the adherence in large sections of the population to the ideals of social promotion promoted by the model, characterized by the hegemony of an individualistic ethic, concupiscent consumption as a symbol of status and a competitiveness based on a rhetoric of entrepreneurship as an ideal of personal fulfilment, with the consequent disaffection of the ideals embodied by collective action, in a framework of systematic calculated promotion of antagonisms towards trade union bodies and the discrediting of its purposes.
Such characteristics are certainly no stranger to the great backdrop: the magnificent setting of globalized, hegemonic and uniform capitalism, to which it ideologically leverages the neoliberal system. A scenario in which it is juxtaposed to the traditional conditions that characterize the condition of the worker who sells labor, the self-exploitation of the perception and experience of the wage earner, for whom cultural capitalism preaches, is the one who administers its freedom, with the consequent transfer to the individual of responsibility and existential anguish for failure in his aspirations stimulated by the system but conveniently confined to his personal collapse, as administrator and responsible for this freedom, in “the society of tiredness” that forges the hegemonic neoliberal order (CHUL HAN, 2016).
A scenario in which new forms of pre-caring work are hatched and there are new forms of pre-caring work framed by discourses that point to the exercise of individual freedom, according to which impoverished and stripped work of rest times, subjected to digital connection that sweeps the times of rest, in fact is presented and even experienced for some time as a new form of freedom and – in one of its most visible dimensions today – is shown as collaborating between individual agents, such as the case of the riders and consumers, whose meeting is articulated by digital platform companies.
A complex landscape that according to STANDING (2013) has given way to a new social class at the planetary level: the “precarious”, characterized by the reduction to the smallest of wages, the temporaryity of jobs, the roaming of the labour force, and its fungibility; the anguish generated by living conditions (of which the wave of mass suicides showed in Foxconn City, the world’s largest manufacturer of the electronics industry in 2009 and 2010, maquilator of the major brands in the area) and the absence of support networks in the area , an overview that threatens the security protections provided by industrial citizenship.
An expansion resulting from global transformation, through flexible labour practices, developed and implemented by a network of transnational corporations, in emerging economies and markets (China, India, Indonesia, Thailand, to name a few) that Asian “Industrial Parks” are the most illustrative expression of conditions that have led Zizek to speak of “a new era of slavery” (2018).
Having made the indispensable digression of context, taking up the Chilean case and the difficulty in undertaking transformations to highly protected institutions, ATRIA (2013) has pointed out that “In its political dimension, the Chilean model of the last two decades was marked by a culture of agreements, understood not as the free and voluntary consensus among political sectors that are on an equal level of power (and therefore negotiating capacity), but as the attempt at the Concertación (political coalition of centre left) to obtain graceful concessions from those who under the aforementioned vetoes were always in a position to refuse, so that the decision taken under Pinochet’s regime would remain in force. In this sense, in this culture made up of vetoes and conditional reflexes intended to agree on some common minimum, there was much of unbalanced negotiation between unequal parties, little rational agreements and no deliberation (neither public nor private), whose result was to disguise the negotiated by presenting it as the common good.”
“This context made it increasingly difficult in the facts to distinguish the idea from the Concertación, because it became accustomed to try only the reforms for which it could secure the votes of this in Congress, As in Congress the vetoes operated already referred, this meant that the proposed reforms were only in line with the “model”.
The picture described then has allowed the foundational foundations of the economic regime (including industrial relations redefined through the Labor Plan) to remain at their core, incognito.
Within the framework of the characteristics it has adopted from public debate and the limited scope of the agreement mechanism, over the past three decades, a set of laws have sought to reform the configuration of relations in the individual substantive field, have had a different destiny and depth, recovering with limited scope certain rights lost through the Labor Plan, such as the amounts of compensation for termination of contract, the extension of liability the constituent enterprise, the improvement and expansion of labour justice.
In the area of collective autonomy, three reforms (Law 19.069 of 1991, Law 19,.759 of 2001 and Law 20,940 of 2017) have been fruitless experiences to give full effect to the pillars of freedom of association, since, although they have meant limited progress in organic dimension of the right (right to organize), have not altered its functional dimension, maintaining regulatory hostility at the legal level, a profuse regulation that stifies collective bargaining in requirements, deadlines, exclusions, and limitations ( including the scope of the negotiation at the enterprise level) and the right to strike, which succumbs under the weight of similar regulatory cutters.
Referring to the first two reforms to collective law GAMONAL (2010) he points out that they failed to overcome the regulatory system that relies only on heteronoma protection (law), maintaining severe restrictions on collective autonomy (instrument originated in a negotiation). “In this system, collective law rather than a complement to state protection is absolutely limited and controlled by state rules (…) The large number of procedures and formalities form a procedural freedom of association which, in fact, leaves the substantive freedom of association in the dead letter, seriously limiting the collective action of the trade union.”
The 2017 reform, in the same area, not only did not alter the picture described, but was a failure with aggravating, because in addition to not aiming to reform substantial aspects of the model (it eluded postular sectoral negotiation, unraveling the express limitations to right to strike and eliminate the ultra-regulation of collective bargaining) was torpedoed by a fraction – small but sufficient – of the supporters themselves in the ruling collation, further weakening the right to strike by introducing a pre-phase negotiation dominated by the discussion and determination of minimum services and ended up being in some respects (exclusive union ownership) a boomerang, by enabling conservative intervention from the perspective of the Court’s social rights Constitutional Council, preventing the recognition of the union as the exclusive holder of collective bargaining.
A new reform, which – it is worth the repetition – from its formulation aimed at tangential aspects, has shown its own ineptitude to provoke a reversal of the legal regime that regulates the collective relations of work, through the full consecration of the freedom of association, while externalizing a frustrating drill, conditioned by the institutional stresses that limit the actions of so-called “progressive” sectors, now dominated by their own self-censorship in the matter; a kind of ideological colonization from the neoliberal model that restrains them when postulating a structural reform agendamodel of industrial relations already established.
It can be seen that this is a reality shaped by the physiognomy of Chilean democracy itself and its limits, if not democracy in general faced with the current challenges. Without prejudice to local particularities, it is not uncommon for this reality to be explained in what authors such as STIGLITZ describe when they point out that “the problem may not be how the markets work or should work, but our political system, which has failed to ensure that markets are competitive, and has created rules that maintain distorted markets in which corporations and the rich can exploit the whole world…”
Chile then exhibits in this area, a landscape anchored in the past, overwhelmed by institutional constraints that prevent, in large part, taking on the current debate on the future of the union and the work itself, creating a gap between reality stifled by a legal political organization that retains it under the most archaic forms and a challenging present of dizzying evolution (globalization, digitization, transformation of forms of work, adequacy and expiration of institutions, discredit of democracy, among others) that raises urgent questions regarding the organisation of workers, their own work and their future.
However, in the period progress was made in the labour specialization of the judiciary (only in the first instance), conflicts were subjected to procedures governed by the principles of orality, concentration, immediacy and publicity, responsibility was regulated property due to non-complianceby by the main company’s employer in the various outsourced figures, the figure of sexual harassment was regulated by establishing procedures and sanctions and – probably, in one of the most relevant reforms – was provided to the workers an action for direct constitutional protection of constitutional rights before the labour judge. A procedural guarantee that has allowed in the last decade judicial control of the business powers on the basis of the caution of the individual freedoms of the worker, collecting the doctrine of citizenship in the enterprise and the horizontal effect of the fundamental rights.
The arbitrio of guardianship, by means of ordinary jurisprudential extension, has also become applicable to public work, that is to say the employment relationship in which the employer is the State, through any of its organs.

The content poured into this opinion column is the sole responsibility of its author, and does not necessarily reflect the editorial line or position of El Mostrador.

Original source in Spanish

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