Chile's Exporters Association (Asoex) proposed last week the introduction of foreign workers to make up for a scarcity of labour in Chile's agricultural workforce. Critics accused Asoex president Ronald Brown of seeking to profit from poorly paid foreign labour on temporary contracts.
PPD Deputy Ramón Farías denied Brown's claim that Chile could not supply its own labour. "Ronald Brown's claim is unbelievable," he said. "Suggesting something like that shows he has little idea of the reality in the countryside". Chile's Agricultural Minister Álvaro Rojas has not thrown out the suggestion, but he assured the public that any foreign labour would have to work in accordance with Chilean law. "We wouldn't only be receiving people who need work, but also accommodation, education and health care" said Rojas. "These 'temporary citizens' have the right to fall ill and to have demands other than employment. You can't just expect that a labourer will arrive and turn into some kind of machine". Ana María Muñoz of the Central Labour Union (CUT), Chile's most important labour union federation, suspected other motivations for the proposal. "Agriculture exporters say there is no workforce in Chile but they're only looking for a way to cut costs and pay their workers less," she said. "The majority of workers on temporary contracts are women who work long hours, don't have anywhere to leave their children or to eat, and don't have any kind of job security." "Some temporary workers don't get paid the minimum wage or even have a contract," added Muñoz. "Do we really want to import foreign workers to live as slaves?" The Santiago Times - News about Chile
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