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Jobs opportunities down, lay offs up in Chilean economy

Friday, December 26th 2008 - 20:00 UTC
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Despite government pleas to the contrary, some of Chile's largest industries have already begun laying off workers en masse, evidence that the global financial crisis is beginning to take serious hold here.

Late last week Chilean Interior Minister Edmundo Pérez Yoma promised action on the employment issue but said the government will need help from business leaders. "Once again we ask for cooperation from the business community, urging it to use layoffs only as a last resort," he said. "We're asking companies to first use all the other tools available in order to avoid job cuts." The interior minister's statements echo a similar appeal by President Michelle Bachelet, who addressed the issue during this year's National Business Conference. "As the president, I ask that you protect jobs, that you keep in mind the workers and their families," she said. "As president, I ask that you avoid large-scale layoffs. I ask that when you make adjustments, you don't always begin in the human resources department." For many Chilean workers, however, the government pleas are too little too late. Chile's forestry sector, for example, has shed thousands of jobs. The companies themselves estimate they've left redundant some 4,000 people. Labour leaders put the figure much higher. Union head Sergio Gatica estimates as many as 12,000 workers have already lost their jobs. In Region VIII alone, he told the daily El Mercurio, 42 mills, two finishing plants and six furniture factories have closed since the crisis began. The construction industry is also being hard hit, as are the banking and farmed salmon industries. Chile's once-booming salmon industry has cut as many as 6,000 jobs. And with production levels to drop in 2009, the numbers are expected to spike. "It's really complicated," Alejandro Oyarzun of the National Confederation of Salmon Workers told the Patagonia Times. "Before, a worker would leave the industry at the end of the season or because maybe he just didn't get along with his boss. He'd go to Quemchi, Chonchi or Quellon (all in Chiloé), and there he'd find more work. Nowadays he loses his job and what? Where can he go? He goes home and waits for the phone to ring, because unfortunately there's no more work." By Patagonia Times Staff (editor@santiagotimes.cl)

Categories: Economy, Mercosur.

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