Chilean president signs 'milestone' ag labor bill -

Chilean president signs 'milestone' ag labor bill

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Chilean president signs 'milestone' ag labor bill

Chilean President Sebastián Piñera has signed a new agricultural labor bill that allows for collective pacts between workers and employers, with the aim of increasing flexibility and productivity.

The new law would involve changes to Section II of the country's Labor Code and apply to both permanent and seasonal laborers, with new negotiation practices that can regulate work hours to better adapt to weather conditions.

Agriculture Minister Jose Antonio Galilea said the move was a response to 'historic demands' of workers who wanted more freedom to do their work, and employers who wanted to increase productivity.

"(It's) a milestone in the modernization of our labor code and its main value is that it represents in itself a bi-partisan agreement between workers and agricultural businesspeople," he said.

Galilea said he was confident the measure would continue to advance the president's commitment to agriculture, and would benefit the country's  800,000 workers that are employed in the industry during the peak period between January and March.

The bill has now been sent to the congress for discussion and if passed will form form part of the government's competitivity agenda under the portfolio of Minister for the Economy Pablo Longueira.

The bill also seeks to reduce bureaucracy by allowing the collective pacts to be sent to the administrative registries of the Labor Department, rather than the department itself.

The new clauses also dictate that if there is 10 months of employment under a fixed contract then it is considered 'indefinite', in a bid to prevent successive work contracts that conceal that ongoing relationship, which often happens due to the seasonal nature of the industry.

The bill comes at a time when the industry is forecasting a significant labor shortage for the coming season, with fruit union Fedefruta calling for improved laws to attract foreign workers.

Related story: Chile's fruit industry lacks 33% of the labor it needs

Photo: Minagri

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