SANTIAGO – Many Chilean public employees participated in a strike on Thursday to protest the layoffs of more than 2,000 of their colleagues by the conservative government of Sebastian Piñera since the start of his term in March.
The nationwide walkout was being observed by a high percentage of public workers nationwide, the leader of the Anef union, Carlos Insunza, told reporters.
Anef is seeking to “make clear to the government that the 2,000 dismissals that we’ve tallied and which still constitute an incomplete accounting of the situation that public workers are experiencing, is an absolutely unacceptable circumstance,” he said.
He also said that the wave of layoffs violates agreements reached a few weeks ago during negotiations on a pay hike for the sector, which ultimately remained at 3.5 percent.
Shortly before noon, hundreds of workers gathered in front of the La Moneda presidential palace, to express their displeasure at the situation.
Police were deployed immediately throughout the sector, but – although there were moments of tension – no clashes erupted.
In some regional capitals, public employees also took to the streets to protest, and – according to Insunza – if the government does not provide a satisfactory answer for its breach of its previous commitment, the mobilizations will continue.
Finance Minister Felipe Larrain said that the government always had “the greatest willingness (to find a solution, but) in the first years of every new administration there are dismissals.”
“We talked about that with Anef. The important thing is that there is a procedure and that there is also the possibility of a reconsideration” of the situation, he added.