Workers of Walmart Chile reject company’s offer and vote to go on strike

The workers are demanding better wages and reincorporation of the workers who will be unemployed in the coming months after the digital transformation of the company.

July 02, 2019 by Peoples Dispatch
A demonstration outside one of the outlets of Hiper Lider in Chile, on June 29. Photo: DiarioUChile

More than 17,000 workers, working in more than 150 stores of various supermarket chains owned by Walmart in Chile, will go on a strike this week. In a voting process held on June 25, 26 and 27, the supermarket workers rejected Walmart’s offer with an overwhelming majority of 95% and decided to go on an indefinite strike if their demands are not accepted. The Sindicato Interempresa Líder (SIL), a trade union of Walmart workers in Chile, called the workers to vote.

Walmart Chile is undergoing a digital transformation. It is planning to substitute cashiers with automatic cash registers, which will lead to the unemployment of over 3,000 workers in the coming months. The workers are demanding better wages and reincorporation of the workers -who will be unemployed- within the same supermarket chains on other positions.

“If they want transformation, it has to be with guarantees and remunerations for the workers,” Juan Francisno La Regla, the general secretary of the SIL, told Diario Financiero.

On June 22, after four weeks of negotiation, the company made the same offer that it gave a month ago, so the union gave the call for to vote on a strike action.

In Chile, according to the article 356, under the Labor Code, the company gets five days to make a new offer once it is rejected in the collective bargaining process. The submission of a new offer five days after each vote may be exercised in succession until the approval of a final offer.

The workers are expected to go on strike either on July 3 or 4. On June 28, after declaring the voting results, Juan Moreno, the president of the SIL, indicated that the strike would be held next week providing the company the established five days for mediation.

The SIL is one of the largest Chilean trade unions. It brings together more than 17,000 supermarket workers of Líder, Hiper Líder, Express de Líder, Ekono, Acuenta and Central Mayorista. If the strike happens, it will be the largest private sector strike in recent years.

Although the strike is likely to begin next week, Monero called on workers to protest at different supermarkets outlets across the country during the weekend. On June 29 and 30, several demonstrations were held across Chile, affecting sale at dozens of supermarket outlets.