SANTIAGO – Riot police forcibly ejected dozens of union activists from the Chilean lower house on Tuesday as lawmakers discussed a pay increase for public employees.
While the center-left government of President Michelle Bachelet is offering a raise of 3.2 percent, public sector unions are demanding a 7 percent pay hike.
The government’s proposal “is an embarrassment,” said the leader of the CUT labor federation, Barbara Figueroa.
“If the finance minister (Rodrigo Valdes) doesn’t like to hear the truth, let him leave,” she said as a cop dragged her out of the visitors’ gallery.
The house speaker, Socialist Osvaldo Andrade, ordered the police to remove the activists.
“It’s a despicable deed. The president has to answer for this. President Salvador Allende must be spinning in his grave,” union official Esteban Maturana said, referring to the Socialist head of state ousted in the 1973 military coup led by Augusto Pinochet.
Several leftist lawmakers, notably Camila Vallejo, Karol Cariola and Ivan Fuentes, tried to restrain the police violence.
After around 200 minutes of shouting and altercations, the legislators resumed debate on the bill, though many members walked out.