Forestry Giant Arauco Has Stopped Its Production Nationwide As Strikers Block Site Entrances
(Ed. Note: Since this article went to press, Arauco has struck a deal with the strikers until Oct. 6.)
Forestry production has been shut down throughout the country in response to strikes from subcontractors resulting from wage disputes with service companies contracted by parent forestry company Arauco.
Arauco, owned by the powerful conglomerate Angelini Group, employs 34,500 people subcontracted through a holding company. The subcontracted workers, part of the Confederation of Forest Workers, have been fighting for an increase in their base salary wage to $250,000 Chilean pesos (US$458), along with monthly bonuses, and have asked the parent company Arauco to step in and help the negotiations.
Less than satisfied with the parent company’s response, subcontractors began striking last week at 10 sites throughout the country; particularly pulp mills, sawmills and paneling plants in the southern regions of Bio-Bío (VIII), Araucanía (IX) and Los Ríos (XIV). Arauco asked the government for permission to evict the strikers, who cause a physical barrier to the sites. But since the government did not give eviction permission, the company decided to shut down production nationwide.
“Considering that we requested the eviction and that it is not yet done, the company decided to close all plants whose access is blocked, given that the most important thing here is the safety of people who are legitimately entitled to work and cannot be at risk,” said Arauco Public Affairs Manager Ivan Chamarro.
The forestry company represents a substantial part of the area’s economy, with more than 30,000 workers in Arauco plants. Arauco also provides 25 percent of the gross domestic product of Region VIII.
Arauco has had a long, turbulent history with its workers, including the 2007 death of Rodrigo Alexis Cisternas Fernández, a 26-year-old subcontracted worker. Cisternas was shot dead by riot police while at the picket lines to protest for higher wages. Then-Labor Minister Osvaldo Andrade stepped in and pressured Arauco to offer a new deal, which ended with wage increases between 12 and 54 percent, depending on previous wages.
SOURCES: LA TERCERA, RADIO BÍO-BÍO