Norwegian organizations demand intervention in state-owned firm’s labor dispute in Chile

The workers of the ‘Los Lagos’ hydroelectric power project in Chile undertaken by the Norwegian energy producer, Statkraft, have been protesting the unilateral changes in shifts of working days and lack of COVID-19 safety measures

August 24, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Mobilization in front of the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Oslo. Photo: Communist Party of Norway (NKP)

On August 20, Friday, working class organizations and other progressive groups in Norway demonstrated in front of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Oslo, seeking government intervention in a labor dispute in Chile which involves the Norwegian state-owned hydropower company Statkraft. The groups which called the mobilization include the  Socialist Revolution, Latin American Action Group (LAG)-Norway, and Red Party. Activists from the Oslo committee of the Communist Party of Norway (NKP) also participated. 

The demonstrators called on the Norwegian government to urge the state-owned Statkraft to resolve the dispute with the workers of its ‘Los Lagos’ hydropower project in the Pilmaiquén River in southern Chile. The demonstrators also expressed their support and solidarity with the Chilean workers involved in the dispute. Earlier, on August 5, a section of workers also demonstrated outside the Norwegian Embassy in Chile, requesting the Norwegian consul to resolve the dispute.

Statkraft AS — wholly owned by the Norwegian state — is a leading hydropower company and a producer of renewable energy. It started its operations in Chile in 2014 and has been involved in several hydro, wind, and solar power projects. In 2015, the company acquired Pilmaiquen Electric Company with projects and operations in the Pilmaiquen River basin in southern Chile. The workers of the Los Lagos project undertaken by Statkraft since 2019 raised objections against unilateral changes in shift schemes of working days — from two weeks on and two weeks off to 10 days on and five days off — imposed by the executing company Consorcio BOV SPA, reportedly with the acquiescence of Statkraft SA. The workers also raised serious concerns about the lack of COVID-19 safety measures in the workplace. Workers under the leadership of the National Interempresa Union of Industrial Construction and Related Activities (SINACIN) organized several protests demanding a resolution of the dispute.

The trade union SINACIN said that the “10×5 shift does not give the workers adequate rest due to the remote location and the time required to get there.” They also claimed that attempts to talk to the management of Statkraft were in vain.

Earlier in 2016, Statkraft courted another controversy with regard to the compliance with the ILO Convention 169 with provisions on indigenous peoples’ rights. The company had to stop the operation of a project when the dam’s construction affected the ceremonial site ‘Ngen Mapu Kintuante of the indigenous group Mapuche-Huilliche in the Pilmaiquén river.

The Socialist Revolution said that “even though Statkraft claims to be a sustainable company, these events show that so-called green capitalism is just a facade. The development of renewable energy sources cannot be allowed to worsen working conditions. At the same time, we cannot allow such projects to limit local communities’ right to their land and water sources.” 

“Green capitalism is not a solution; it is just another facade for exploitation and enrichment for a small minority,” added the Socialist Revolution.