University of Minnesota

Inter-Am. C.H.R., OEA/Ser.L/V/II.40, Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Chile, Doc. 10 (1977).





American Declaration: Article XXI. Every person has the right to assemble peaceably with others in a formal public meeting or an informal gathering, in connection with matters of common interest of any nature

Article XXII. Every person has the right to associate with others to promote, exercise and protect his legitimate interests of a political, economic, religious, social, cultural, professional, labor union or other nature.

In a note dated November 30, 1976, the Commission requested, inter alia, the following information from the Government of Chile on the right of assembly and association:

1. Are Decree-Laws 77, 198 and others, which restrict the right of assembly and association, still in effect? What new legal provisions have been issued in connection with this matter?

2. Is it possible to hold a peaceable meeting in a private home, during the day or night—such as a family celebration—without being required to give prior notice or to request prior authorization for that meeting from any authority? If this is required, what authority must be contacted?

3. Does Chile currently recognize trade-union freedoms, and to what extent? Is there freedom to form syndicates, unions, or federations of unions? Is the running of the unions by their own members freely allowed, without the intervention of outside authorities? Can they freely administer their own funds? Are they allowed to negotiate freely with their employers?

4. Are religious observances of a public nature freely allowed outside church buildings? Under what conditions?

5. Could the Government of Chile tell us whether it has taken into account in any way the recommendations made by the working group of the International Labour Organisation after its visit to Chile and approved by the Governing Body of the ILO? (there is no implication here of an endorsement of these recommendations by this Commission). In relation to which matters? Could the Government of Chile inform the Commission as to the provisions adopted?

6. Have the new Labor Code, and Decree-Law 1006, containing the statute governing incorporation of business, entered into effect? If so, we should like to receive copies of these legal texts.

2. The information requested was supplied by the Government of Chile in its reply contained in note Nº 12, of January 27, 1976, in the following terms:

B. Right of assembly and association:

1. Current status of decree-laws 77, 298 and others restricting the exercise of the right to assembly and association.

The decree-laws cited are fully in force. There have been no new developments in this area since March 12, 1976. However, it should be pointed out that the provisions of the Constitutional Acts promulgated last September fully protect the exercise of these rights, considering them to be fundamental human rights, the natural rights of man, and that the Acts contain certain logical restrictions to be applied only in particular, exceptional circumstances, and whose sole and exclusive purpose is to keep the peace and internal security of the Republic.

2. Holding private meetings of a family nature, during the day or at night.

It is possible to hold daytime or night-time meetings of the kind referred to in the question, without prior notice or permission being required, unless such meetings are to last beyond the curfew, in which case, authorization must be requested from the closest unit of Carabineros.

3. Free observance of religious rites outside church buildings.

This type of service has always been held in Chile. There are no special regulations governing such matters, apart from the constitutional provision protecting the freedom of worship and the free exercise of religious expression.

As regards question 3, 5 and 6 of Annex III, Part II, the Labor Code currently in effect in our country is the same as that in force at the time the present Government took power: it was promulgated in 1931.

This body of laws, together with its complementary laws, recognizes that persons of both sexes performing the same work, profession or employment or similar or connected professions, whether white-collar or manual labor, enjoy the right of association.

Consequently, in Chile the Labor Code and its complementary laws currently recognize the right of workers freely to form unions, and to choose whether or not to join such associations, except in the case of industrial unions, which must be composed exclusively of workers employed in one business: for these employees, union membership is obligatory, once the union has been formed through agreement among them.

In this case, union membership is obligatory both for workers employed in the industry at the time the union is formed, and for those who subsequently enter its employ.

Similarly, present labor law recognizes that right of unions to form federations or confederations, always provided they are based on the same jobs or professions, or belong to the same occupational field, such as agricultural unions.

As far as the free running of unions by their own members without intervention by outside authorities is concerned, it should be pointed out that the unions are free to regulate themselves through their regular administrative organs—their Board of Directors and/or their Assembly—which is their supreme authority.

As to the possibility of the unions' freely managing their own funds, it should be pointed out that the unions themselves are responsible for managing the funds of the organization, without prejudice to the oversight powers of the Department of Labor; these powers, the purpose of which is to look after the interests of the workers, have been part of the legislation in force in the country for many years.

The recommendations made by the Fact-Finding and Conciliation Commission on Freedom of Association that visited our country in December 1974, and which were accepted by Chile, have been gradually implemented, to the extent possible given the economic situation and the deep crisis in the country brought on by the previous Government.

The Government of Chile maintains a constant flow of information to the Governing Body as to the progress of the recommendations of the Fact-Finding and Conciliation Commission on Freedom of Association of the ILO.

The last report on the question was submitted on January 20, 1977 to the 202nd meeting of the Governing Body and the next will be sent to Geneva by April 1, 1977, for study at its 203rd meeting which will be held in May.

We give below some of the measures adopted in relation to these recommendations, and make no further comment thereon, as they are subject to the competent regular authorities of the ILO, where they will be treated according to the rules of due process.

1. As regards the adoption of new union and labor legislation:

a. Constitutional Act Nº 3, of September 11, 1976, which guarantees, inter alia, all persons the right to equality in law, the right to work and to job security, the right to unionize, and the right to social security.

b. Book II of the Draft Labor Code, which deals with the organization of trade unions is under study by the Council of State.

c. Statute on Social Obligations of Businesses, approved by Decree-Law 1006 of 1975, which contains provisions concerning worker-participation plans.

d. Statute of Occupational Training and Employment, approved by Decree-Law 1446 of 1976, in effect since January 1, 1977. Its basic aim is to promote work training that will help workers to improve and acquire skills that will enable them to advance and develop in their own occupations, or that will help them transfer to other more remunerative fields of employment.

e. Suppression of the Offices of Labor Coordination, by means of Supreme Decree Nº 375, of 1976.

f. In the event of bankruptcy of a corporation, preference is given to payment of workers' wages, salaries and taxes, pursuant to Decree-Law 1509 of 1976, making such preferential payment immediately, through administrative procedures, from the Bankruptcy Union.

g. Standards on administrative procedures to be used by the Department of Labor in issuing legal opinions and judgments requested by private individuals, the creation of an administrative tribunal to appeal such decisions before the Labor Courts, and the establishment of the principle of monetary readjustment of debts owed to workers. Decree-Law 1228 of 1975.

2. In connection with the inquiry made in Nº 6 of Vol. II of the note from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, I can report on the following matters:

a. As will be appreciated from what was said in the previous paragraph of this report, the new Labor Code has not entered into force; and

b. Decree-Law 1006 containing the Statute on Social Obligations of Businesses has not entered into force because, by the express provision of its transitory Article 3, it shall take effect on the same date that the new Labor Code enters into force.

3. This Commission has not been informed whether the ILO delegation to investigate the questions discussed here has completed its task. However, the Freedom of Association Committee which was created by the Governing Body of the ILO in 1951, held a meeting in Geneva on December 10, 1976, and prepared its report on freedom of association in Chile.1

4. Constitutional Act Nº 3 published in the Diario Oficial of the Republic of Chile on September 13, 1976, contains certain provisions referring to the right to assembly and association; these appear in Article 1, in the following numbered paragraphs:

7. The right to meet peacefully, without prior authorization and unarmed, In town squares, streets and other places open to public use, meetings shall be governed by the general provisions of the law.

9. The right to associate without prior authorization. In order to enjoy legal status, associations must be established under the law.

20. Membership in professional associations shall be mandatory in cases expressly provided in the law, which may only require it for the practice of university professions.

Affiliation to trade union organizations may not be demanded to carry out a specific work.

22. The right to participate in trade unions in connection with production or service activities, or the respective industry or activity, in the cases and under the conditions provided by law.

Trade union organizations shall enjoy legal status by merely filing their statute and papers of incorporation with the pertinent autonomous organization as provided by law.

The law shall contemplate procedures to guarantee the autonomy of trade union organizations and the self-financing thereof.

5. These provisions will show that progress has been made with respect to the observance of the rights referred to in the present chapter. The Commission does not have available sufficient information to be able to determine, at the time of writing, how far these legal standards extend in practice.




1 See the document of the Governing Body of the ILO (GB.201/11, November 24, 1976) containing Resolutions II and III. II: Development of the situation concerning the recommendations of the Commission on Investigation and Conciliation in the matter of Union Freedoms, in the case of Chile, and the Resolution on Human and Union Rights in Chile adopted by the International Labor Conference at its 60th meeting. III. Provisional conclusions on the case of Chile. Case Nº 823. Complaints against the Government of Chile presented by the World Federation of Trade Unions, the World Confederation of Labor, the International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, and various other union organizations.


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