Section 2. Respect for Civil Liberties
a. Freedom of Expression, Including for Members of the Press and Other Media
The constitution provides for freedom of expression, including for members of the press and other media, and the government generally respected this right. An independent press, an effective judiciary, and a functioning democratic political system combined to promote freedom of expression, including for members of the media.
Violence and Harassment: On July 7, PDI agents allegedly targeted journalists Vicente Rojas Lopez and Felipe Garcia with rubber bullets during a disturbance while Lopez and Garcia were covering the funeral procession of activist Luisa Toledo Sepulveda that passed in front of PDI headquarters in Santiago. No formal investigation was opened.
The government did not restrict or disrupt access to the internet or censor online content, and there were no credible reports that the government monitored private online communications without appropriate legal authority.
Academic Freedom and Cultural Events
There were no government restrictions on academic freedom or cultural events.
The law provides for the freedoms of peaceful assembly and association, and the government generally respected those rights.
The constitution provides for freedom of internal movement, foreign travel, emigration, and repatriation; and the government generally respected these rights.
The government cooperated with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees and other humanitarian organizations in providing protection and assistance to refugees, returning refugees, asylum seekers, stateless persons, and other persons of concern.
Access to Asylum: The law provides for the granting of asylum or refugee status, and the government has established a system for providing protection to refugees, including access to education and health care.
Section 7. Worker Rights
a. Freedom of Association and the Right to Collective Bargaining
The law provides for the rights of workers, with some limitations, to form and join independent unions of their choice, bargain collectively, and conduct strikes. The law also prohibits antiunion practices and requires either back pay or reinstatement for workers fired for union activity.
Workers in the private sector and in state enterprises have the freedom to unionize without prior approval. Police, military personnel, and civil servants working for the judiciary are prohibited from joining unions. Union leaders are restricted from being candidates or members of Congress. The Labor Directorate, an independent government authority under the Ministry of Labor, has broad powers to monitor unions’ financial accounts and financial transactions. For example, unions must update their financial records daily, and ministry officials may inspect the records at any time.
The law prohibits public employees from striking, although they frequently did. While employees in the private sector and workers in formal and regulated collective bargaining units have the right to strike, the law places some restrictions on this right. For example, an absolute majority of workers, rather than a majority of those voting, must approve strikes.
The law also prohibits employees of 101 specific private-sector companies, largely providers of services such as water and electricity, from striking, and it stipulates compulsory arbitration to resolve disputes in these companies. Additionally, workers employed by companies or corporations whose stoppage would cause serious damage to the health, economy, or security of the country do not have the right to strike.
Employers may not dismiss or replace employees for being involved in a strike. Unions must provide emergency personnel to fulfill the company’s “minimum services.” Those include the protection of tangible assets and the company’s facilities, accident prevention, ensuring the supply of essential public services, and ensuring the prevention of environmental and sanitary damages.
The law extends unions’ rights to information, requiring large companies to disclose annual reports, including balance sheets, statements of earnings, and audited financial statements. Large companies must provide any public information required by the Superintendence of Securities and Insurance within 30 days of the date when the information becomes available. Smaller companies must provide the information necessary for preparing collective bargaining processes.
The law extends collective bargaining rights to intercompany unions, provided they represent workers at employers having 50 or more employees and falling within the same economic rubric or activity. An absolute majority of all covered workers must indicate through secret ballot that they agree to be represented by an intercompany union in collective bargaining. Intercompany unions for workers at micro or small businesses (i.e., with fewer than 50 workers) are permitted to bargain collectively only when the individual employers all agree to negotiate under such terms.
The law does not provide for collective bargaining rights for workers in public institutions or in a private institution that received more than 50 percent of its funding from the state in either of the preceding two years, or whose budget was dependent upon the Defense Ministry. The law also does not provide for collective bargaining in companies whose employees are prohibited from striking, such as in health care, law enforcement, and public utilities. The law extends bargaining rights to apprentices and short-term employees. Executives, such as managers and assistant managers, are prohibited from collective bargaining.
The government enforced applicable laws effectively, and penalties were commensurate with those for other laws involving denials of civil rights, such as discrimination. Nevertheless, the Labor Directorate commented on the need for more inspectors. Penalties were not sufficient to deter violations. Companies are generally subject to sanctions for labor violations, which vary according to the severity of the case. Companies may receive “special sanctions” for infractions, which include antiunion practices. Freedom of association was generally respected.
Employers sometimes did not respect the right to collective bargaining. NGOs and unions reported that companies sought to inhibit the formation of unions and avoid triggering collective bargaining rights, especially among seasonal agricultural workers and in key export sectors such as mining, forestry, and fishing. These companies used subcontracts and temporary contracts and obtained several fiscal registration or tax identification numbers when increasing the size of their workforce. Subcontracted employees earned lower wages than regular employees performing the same task, and many contractors failed to provide formal employment benefits, such as social security, health care, and pensions.
In August workers at the top lithium producer Albermarle went on strike after accusing their employer of discriminatory contracts and salary inequality. On September 15, the Albermarle Salar Workers Union reached an agreement with Albermarle for a new 36-month labor contract. Workers returned to their jobs immediately following the settlement.
Labor courts may require workers to resume work upon a determination that a strike, by its nature, timing, or duration, causes serious risk to the national economy or to health, national security, and the supply of goods or services to the population. Generally, a back-to-work order should apply only when a prolonged strike in a vital sector of the economy might endanger public safety or health, and it should apply only to a specific category of workers.
The law prohibits forced or compulsory labor but does not criminally prohibit forced labor except when it results from human trafficking. Penalties were commensurate with those for analogous crimes, such as kidnapping. NGOs reported many government officials responsible for identifying and assisting victims had limited resources and expertise in identifying victims of labor trafficking. Additionally, judges often suspended or commuted sentences. The government worked to prevent and combat forced labor through its interagency antitrafficking taskforce, which included international organizations and local NGOs. The task force published and began implementation of its 2019-22 national action plan.
Labor trafficking continued to occur. Some foreign citizens and children were subjected to forced labor in the mining, agriculture, construction, street vending, garment, domestic service, and hospitality sectors. Some children were forcibly employed in the agricultural, industrial, and service sectors, as well as in the illegal drug trade (see section 7.c.).
The country conforms to international standards, which dictate the minimum age for employment or work is 15. The law sets the minimum age for employment at 18, although it provides that children ages 15-17 may work with the express permission of their parents or guardians if the child attends school. Children may perform only light work that does not require hard physical labor or constitute a threat to health or the child’s development. The law prohibits all the worst forms of child labor. Prohibitions related to the use of children for illicit activities do not meet international standards because they only criminalize supplying children with drugs or inducing children to use drugs.
Ministry of Labor inspectors enforced regulations in the formal economy effectively but did not enforce regulations in or inspect the informal economy. Infractions included contracting a minor younger than 18 without the authorization of the minor’s legal representative, failing to register a minor’s contract with the ministry, and contracting a minor younger than 15 for activities not permitted by law. Criminal penalties for the worst forms of child labor, such as commercial exploitation of children, were commensurate with those for analogous crimes such as kidnapping.
The government devoted considerable resources and oversight to child labor policies. The Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, through the Program Against Child Labor, led efforts to eradicate the worst forms of child labor.
Multiple government agencies participated in the National Advisory Committee to Eradicate Child Labor. The committee met regularly and brought together civil society organizations and government agencies in a coordinated effort to raise awareness, provide services to victims, and protect victims’ rights. The Worst Forms of Child Labor Task Force, a separate entity, maintained a registry of cases and a multisector protocol for the identification, registration, and care of children and adolescents who were victims of commercial sexual exploitation. The National Tourism Service’s hotel certification procedures, developed in collaboration with the National Service for Minors, included strict norms for preventing the commercial sexual exploitation of children. This included special training for National Tourism Service staff charged with assessing and certifying hotels.
Some children were subjected to commercial sexual exploitation and the worst forms of child labor. Authorities identified a significant number of children involved in illicit activities, including drug trafficking and theft; some children may have been victims of child sex trafficking. Children also engaged in dangerous tasks in agriculture.
The law and regulations prohibit employment discrimination based on race, sex, age, civil status, union affiliation, religion, political opinion, nationality, national extraction, social origin, disability, language, sexual orientation, gender identity, HIV-positive status or other communicable diseases, refugee or stateless status, ethnicity, or social status. The government and employers cannot discriminate because of refugee status, stateless status, or ethnicity, but workers must have a work permit or be citizens to hold contracted jobs.
The law provides civil legal remedies to victims of employment discrimination based on race, ethnicity, nationality, socioeconomic situation, language, ideology, political opinion, religion, belief, association or participation in union organizations or lack thereof, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, marriage status, age, political affiliation, personal appearance, and sickness or physical disability. For all public agencies and for private employers with 100 or more employees, the law requires 1 percent of jobs be reserved for persons with disabilities.
The government enforced the applicable law effectively, and penalties were commensurate with other laws related to civil rights. Authorities generally enforced the law in cases of sexual harassment, and there was no evidence of police or judicial reluctance to act. Companies may receive “special sanctions” for infractions such as denying maternity leave. Discrimination in employment and occupation continued to occur. Indigenous persons continued to experience societal discrimination in employment. Statistics regarding rates of discrimination faced by different groups were not available.
Wage and Hour Laws: The national minimum wage exceeded the poverty level. The law sets the legal workweek at six days or 45 hours. The maximum workday is 10 hours (including two hours of overtime pay). The law provides exemptions from restrictions on hours of work for some categories of workers such as managers; administrators; employees of fishing boats; restaurant, club, and hotel workers; drivers; airplane crews; telecommuters or employees who work outside of the office; and professional athletes. The law mandates at least one 24-hour rest period during the workweek, except for workers at high altitudes, who may exchange a work-free day each week for several consecutive work-free days every two weeks. Annual leave for full-time workers is 15 workdays, and workers with more than 10 years of service are eligible for an additional day of annual leave for every three years worked. Overtime is any time worked beyond the 45-hour workweek, and workers are due time-and-a-half pay for any overtime performed. The Labor Directorate, an agency under the Ministry of Labor and Social Welfare, is responsible for enforcing minimum wage and other labor laws and regulations; penalties were commensurate with those for similar crimes. As of July the directorate had 374 inspectors who conducted both regular and unannounced workplace visits. Inspectors can impose penalties for violations of labor, social security, and occupational safety and health (OSH) laws.
Occupational Safety and Health: The law establishes OSH standards, which are applicable to all sectors. Special safety and health norms exist for specific sectors such as mining and diving. The National Service for Geology and Mines is further mandated to regulate and inspect the mining industry. The law does not regulate the informal sector. By law workers may remove themselves from situations that endanger health or safety without jeopardy to their employment, and authorities effectively protected employees in this situation.
The Health Ministry and the Labor Ministry administered and effectively enforced OSH standards. Penalties for violations of OSH laws were commensurate with those for similar crimes, such as negligence. The law establishes fines for noncompliance with labor regulations. Companies may receive “special sanctions” for infractions such as causing irreversible injuries to an employee.
Informal Sector: A July-September survey by the Statistics National Institute revealed that informal employment represented 27.7 percent of total employment, an increase of 4.2 percentage points from 2020. Impacted sectors included wholesale and retail trade (informal employment up by 30.6 percent) and construction (informal employment up by 62.3 percent). Regarding new jobs in the informal sector, self-employed workers were up by 48.1 percent, domestic service workers were up by 46.7 percent, and jobs with employers were up by 39.3 percent. Combined, those three categories represented the majority of new jobs in the informal sector.
The government provided economic and social measures such as the Emergency Family Income program to those affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, including workers in the informal economy. As of January, the government provided other types of social assistance in the form of cash payments to low-income families and unemployed workers. In September the government began paying an incentive to companies for hiring women, young workers, men aged 55 years and older, persons with disabilities, and workers retired due to a disability.