Performer unions meet in Uruguay to strengthen regional strategies in Latin America


Delegates from FIA-LA, the Latin American group of FIA, gathered with UNI-MEI/Panartes delegates in Montevideo, Uruguay, for a 3 day joint seminar from 6 to 8 of November 2016, preceded by a 2 day National Workshop. Regional groups from both federations met to discuss issues of common interest and implement projects funded by Union to Union, the Swedish trade union confederation.

Although small in size, Uruguay is among the top countries in the region from a social and economic perspective. In Uruguay, you will find less economic disparity than anyplace else in Latin America. The country is also quite exemplary when it comes to democracy and diversity. Same sex marriage and abortion are legal, and press-freedom has been a key priority during the José Mujica presidency. During the national workshop held in Montevideo on 4 and 5 November, participants indeed extensively discussed the Uruguayan Media law, ‘Ley de Medios’ in Spanish, initiated in 2013.

The law “is a model of media regulation for other countries in the region, where freedom of information suffers from glaring imbalances” says international non-profit RSF (Reporters Sans Frontières – Reporters Without Borders). Although similar legislative projects have been introduced in other countries, such as Argentina, the Uruguayan ‘Ley de Medios’ offers a more comprehensive and gradual approach, with an expectation of full transparency in media licensing and required minimum percentages of nationally produced programmes, to be implemented in a medium-term time frame. FIA and UNI-MEI member unions in Uruguay have always actively taken part in the consultations to foster the law and intend to pursue their lobbying work for a full and transparent implementation. They know they can rely on sister unions for support and are eager to share good practices and experience gained through the process during the possible upcoming project cycle financed by Union to Union in the region (2018 – 2022).

Capacity building activities sponsored by Union to Union in Latin America are indeed instrumental in the development of ad hoc regional strategies for audiovisual and cultural worker organizations. Earlier in 2016, another national workshop took place in Santiago, Chile in May, in collaboration with SIDARTE (the Chilean actors’ union). Although Chile’s economy is one of the most dynamic in the Latin American region, inequalities are still very high and working conditions problematic. Fighting for workers’ rights in Chile is still challenging, partially due to anti-union laws inherited from the previous dictatorship. It only takes 7 people to legally set up a new union in the country and the resulting fragmentation has seriously weakened the unions’ clout. Fortunately, in the audiovisual sector, unions have managed to overcome this challenge quite successfully so far. The workshop focused on union growth and cooperation, also in view of a forthcoming and substantial labour law reform in Chile. It also opened a direct line of dialogue between the audiovisual workers’ unions and representatives of the Chilean government.

Another significant project on the joint agenda has been the development of SIRAT, an interactive on-line tool designed to inform cross-border workers and to support trade union cooperation to better defend the interests of the travelling workers in our sector. A Beta version of SIRAT is now up and running and participants discussed future uses and regional implementation objectives for this online platform.

On the last day of the seminar, delegates worked in small groups to brainstorm about themes and priorities for the development of the common regional strategy. After sharing their conclusions, the delegates agreed on a 2017 action plan that would include a joint Planning Seminar to be held in March 2017 in Montevideo to shape the upcoming work program. Finally, the participants unanimously approved to support the Paraguayan ‘Ley de fomento Audiovisual’, also called ‘Ley de Cine’. The Joint Letter of support from UNI-MEI and FIA is available is Spanish here. 

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