Catholic Church authorities here have strongly protested a series of military junta decrees affecting the labor movement, calling them an attack on the rights of workers and a violation of the moral and social teachings of the church.
Recent government measures dissolved seven labor federations and over 500 local unions, eliminated legal protection for state employes, imposed four-days' notice of union elections in private industry and removed all current union officials.
The surprise measures were the hardest blow to union structures since the 1973 dissolution of the Central Unica de Trabajadores (CUT), which represented all unionized workers in Chile.
Catholic Church officials vigorously condemned these measures.
Speaking for the Archdiocese of Santiago, Msgr. Alfonso Baeza declared that in these circumstances the church cannot remain indifferent. The new measures "endanger the right of workers to organize," he said, and "are an attack on human rights as well as Christian doctrine."
Referring to the closing of the seven federations, he asked, "what have these organizations done to be declared illegal?They called attention to low salaries, unemployment, violations of labor rights and arbitrary firings and have addressed themselves to certain povernment projects affecting the labor world. In all this they are only doing their duty."
Baeza, who heads the Vicaria de la Pastoral Obrera, a new church agency established last year to coordinate pastoral action in working-class sectors, made all the facilities of the church institution available to leaders of the dissolved organizations.