Claudio is president of the Federation of
Unilever Workers of Chile, and finance secretary
of the First Union of Unilever Chile’s chemical
spoke with him at the Third International
Meeting of Unilever Workers. Among other issues,
they discussed the Federation’s reasons for
joining the IUF.
-What is the Federation you belong to like?
-The trade union I belong to has a membership of
250 workers, and the Confederation groups four
organizations that represent workers from
different Unilever Chile
companies, both from the food and chemical
Our trade unions have been active for 80 years,
and the new federation, which represents more
than 600 workers, was formed two years ago.
-What percentage of the membership is made up of
-The percentage is very low, probably under 10
percent. Our two unions represent factory
workers. There are two others that represent
office employees, and there the percentage of
women members is higher.
the past year, Unilever did not hire any women
for its manufacturing and plant activities in
-What about product distribution? Is that
-No, but the office employees’ unions are not in
the Federation. Unilever Chile has
approximately 1,300 workers hired directly, of
which a significant number -about 100 or 200-
are hired to occupy “positions of trust.” This
means that they are not unionized, because the
law allows that possibility. There are
eight mixed labor organizations, with both women
and men members, four of which are in our united
Federation that gathers the majority of the
workers. The other four are not federated.
An important aspect that must be noted is that
in Chile office tasks are separate from
manufacturing activities. The companies’
administration model has evolved in a way that
has not enabled us to unite our labor
In Chile we say that if we’re not organized in a
labor association that cuts across all sectors,
regardless of products or areas of activity, we
will be left far behind with respect to
corporate organization, as corporations
structure themselves according to their
The way transnational corporations operate is
that geographically they structure themselves
according to clusters of countries aligned with
each other, and they tend to have regional
management structures. We have to find a model
of organization that matches the corporations’
economic system. This was at the heart of this
gathering of Unilever Chile food and
chemical unions. The regionalization of
companies must be accompanied by a
regionalization of labor organizations, which is
a process that the IUF’s Latin American
Office, Rel-UITA, has begun through the
establishment of Latin American Federations and
-Are there many outsourced workers in Unilever?
-Chilean legislation authorizes different
forms of outsourcing and subcontracting schemes.
But these schemes are still not very significant
at Unilever, as they are not a common or
widespread practice. That doesn’t mean, however,
that they are not used, but our unions can say
that outsourcing is not the biggest problem we
-Do you have Collective Bargaining Agreements?
-Are they in force?
-Are they honored by the company?
-What is the average salary earned by a worker
at Unilever Chile?
- The salary of workers in home and personal
care chemicals (HPCs) is different from that of
Under the Collective Agreement we have an
average salary that, at around 750 dollars, is
much higher than the national average.
-Is it lower for food sector workers?
-Is this the salary for an eight-hour day?
-We work a 45-hour week, 7 ½ hours a day, six
days a week.
-How are your day-to-day relations with the
company? Are they normal? No pressures? Is there
an antiunion campaign to convince workers to
leave the union?
-In UNILEVER Alimentación (the food
sector) the area manager has a blatant antiunion
attitude, and this is an issue that we have
brought to the bargaining table. We need
to make it clear that the purpose of a labor
organization is to guarantee the rights of the
people it represents. In the chemical union
there are no problems, because we have defined
how we will negotiate and the rules are
observed, but that doesn’t happen in the food
sector, where we have to constantly demand that
they be observed.
We have scheduled a meeting for April 11 to
discuss this matter, and if we don’t reach a
satisfactory solution there we will have to take
action, because this is an old problem that we
have been unable to overcome. Workers in the
food sector have a lot of trouble negotiating.
-You decided, as a Federation, to join the IUF?
What led you to make that decision?
-When Collective Bargaining Agreements and
domestic legislation are not enough to defend
workers’ rights, the labor movement has the
obligation of seeking alternatives. The IUF,
in our opinion, meets the expectations we
have in terms of our goal of international
connections. It is a broad organization, and we
think it can be a tool to help us unify criteria
in the labor movement and to give it an
international projection. Now we have to start
accessing all the information that Rel-UITA
has, and make our workers feel part of this
international organization. We have a lot of
work to do.
-How do you see this Third Meeting of Unilever
-I think it has been a very positive experience.
I listened closely to what everybody had to say,
and I think that Rel-UITA has made a good
diagnosis using the information provided by
Unilever itself, cooperating in
labor-related issues, and I think that there are
no differences among the participating unions as
to the diagnosis. For example, I think that
Rel-UITA was right in structuring the
ARCOR Workers’ Coordinating Body, and I
think it’s even more interesting that the
Regional Office -and I congratulate it on this-
is allocating resources and professionals so
that this year we can finally have a Regional
Coordinating Body of UNILEVER Unions, which
will act as the unions’ coordinator in the
This approach to labor organization is very
interesting. The path that Rel-UITA is
opening up -through the meetings it’s holding
and the work it’s doing- is the way to go.
Because actions themselves are not enough. We
also need to reflect and analyze. If we only
concentrate on one or the other, we won’t get