Negotiating the Margins: The Trajectories of Subcontracting Laws in Peru and Chile. the Case of the Mining Industry

Monday, July 14, 2014: 6:15 PM
Room: Booth 41
Oral Presentation
Walter Omar MANKY BONILLA , School of Industrial and Labor Relations, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY
In spite of their different development levels, Peru and Chile have several elements in common. In both cases the basic principles of the neoliberal reforms have persisted–in contrast with the political transformations of other Latin American countries–; mining is the most important economic activity; and more than 70% of this industry’s workforce is subcontracted. As in other societies, this labor market segmentation has produced precarious employment, from which global companies have largely benefited in the last thirty years.

Additionally, both countries experienced the biggest and longest strikes since their return to democracy in the last decade, and in both cases subcontracted mineworkers organized the main mobilizations. Although miners were not the only group claiming for a reform in the labor legislation, because of the industry’s importance, they were the most visible and powerful one. As a result, both countries changed some parts of their subcontracting laws in the last years.

Based on a comparison between Peru and Chile, this study analyzes the relationship between workers’ mobilizations and labor law’s trajectories. Whereas previous studies have focused on how workers struggle, this one attempts to explain and theorize the results of that contention. Using news clips, legal archives and interviews to union leaders, the study argues that, in spite of the similarities between their contexts, workers’ mobilizations produced divergent outcomes. In Chile, subcontracted workers created their own national federation, which helped them to build a strong identity, whereas in Peru the traditional mining federation rapidly absorbed workers’ struggles, making them unable to unify their demands in a national scale. I suggest that the networks and structures of the subcontracted workers’ organizations affected the reforms they got: restrictive in Peru–they are not for all the workers in the industry– and more inclusive in Chile.