“We have normalized it for years and the time has come to sit down and talk”: professional practices and the absence of rights and duties due to lack of legal regulation

Miguel (26) is a graduate of Industrial Civil Engineering from the Federico Santa María Technical University and preferred to give the interview anonymously “for fear” that his words would have an impact on future professional searches. Before finishing his studies, due to the demands of the university, he carried out two professional internships.

“The first one was an approach to the industry and the second more professional”, he commented. To obtain a university degree, students must carry out professional internships and complete a certain number of hours.

In the case of Miguel, his first approach to the labor field was in a mining company in the Atacama region, where he worked in the maintenance area. For two months he worked a day from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. and received a monthly payment of between 100 and 200 thousand pesos.

“It was not a great experience, the treatment was hostile and I was assigned very little work,” he added. During the practice, she autonomously learned to use a program and showed it to her classmates to “simplify their work”.

“Just then they realized that it existed, that it could be a contribution,” said the young man.

Miguel had better luck than other friends and students of the race. “While I was doing my internship at the mine, there was a colleague, in another area, who received insults, insults, jokes out of place every day,” he said.

Another of his friends did his internship in a place with a high load of hours and tasks and did not receive any type of compensation. And at the time they offered him a job “but earning three times less than any other worker who did the same work,” said Miguel.

That is why he recognized the process as “one more procedure”, but not an experience of professional growth. “I learned to interact with other people, to set limits, to allow and not allow things, but everything I learned in the university I could not apply as much and I wonder why this system is made like this. The company saves the cost of a worker and the student is obliged to do so because it is required. We are supposed to study to be a contribution, if not, why study? ”, she reflected.

Just a procedure or an unacknowledged contribution?

“Companies sometimes do not take advantage of the potential of students and send them to look at the ceiling, then there is” an important loss of human capital, “Miguel stressed.

In this line, the national leader of the National Confederation of University Professionals in Health Services (Fenpruss), Valeria Altamirano (31) expressed that something very similar happens in the practices of future health professionals.

“Health professionals who have five-year careers complete four years of internships and one year as interns, and doctors do the same but then do two years as an intern,” he explained.

“The first years are for introduction to health centers and the last year is already a working day that corresponds to a shift, with some labor rights, such as those related to maternity, but without any type of compensation,” he said.

“There is a kind of agreement between universities and health centers and the experience you have as a practitioner depends a lot on the center. As an intern, there is sometimes support for lodging, meals and transportation, but everything is left to the will of the space”, he added.

Although “it is not a common practice”, the obstetrician acknowledged the existence of “situations of abuse” that she witnessed once she entered the workplace. “I even saw actions by students who joined together to prevent a professional from having contact with them to protect themselves,” she stressed.

In such cases, these complaints are made to the educational establishment “but they are not deepened, the class of students changes and another comes, there is no work that generates an improvement of the system regarding this type of situation,” he stressed.

For Miguel, professional practices should “have a regulation that formalizes” the contract between parties and the intern is considered “as a special worker” so that, in this way, he has duties and rights that allow the practices “to be a benefit for the employee, the employer and society.

For the leader of Fenpruss, the lack of regulation in this area “has been normalized for years and perhaps it is time to start talking to improve these conditions.” In this sense, the health professional highlighted that these “legal loopholes” mean that an inmate “has no legal responsibility for his actions” and, on the other hand, does not have minimum rights, such as “remuneration.”

“As it is not well regulated, the continuity of learning is not valued, the lack of professional duties also prevents them from taking responsibilities that allow this learning, it is a problematic situation and it is important to emphasize the responsibility that all parties have in this process”, reflected the national leader.

An unrecognized employment relationship

Christian Dresdner (26) is a lawyer specializing in labor law and a member of Easy Law (Legal Study). When asked about the legal regulation of the figure of the intern, he showed that there is only one article in the Labor Code that refers to him.

“Article 7 indicates that there will be an employment contract when the employer and the worker are mutually obligated, the worker to provide personal services under dependency and subordination, and the employer to pay a certain remuneration, these are the key elements to define when there is an employment relationship,” he began his explanation.

“In this sense, not just any provision of services will constitute an employment relationship, but subordination and dependency are fundamental elements in this matter,” he said.

“Article 8 establishes that an intern is not a worker, it also maintains that the services provided by a student or graduate of an institution of higher education or technical-professional secondary education during the duration of the contract do not originate in a contract. practice”, mentioned the specialist.

According to the regulations, the lawyer explained that the article defines that the internship must last a certain time (it is not indefinite) and that it can be agreed that the employer provides, for example, collation, mobilization or compensatory allowance.

“The practice that is developed is identical to how the work of a worker is developed, forgive the redundancy, there is the same relationship of subordination and dependency and the employer indicates how and when the work is carried out,” he emphasized.

-But if they are not considered workers, how is mistreatment or abuse spoken here? Because it would not be correct to speak of workplace abuse because there is no legal employment relationship…

-That’s a really good question. There we find a legal vacuum because it happens, for example, that in professional internships for law students there are people who have between 100 and 200 cases, have to serve users, pay for their own photocopies, transportation and collapse because they work long hours, many times without any type of remuneration without the rights of any worker who could request an inspection or initiate protection of fundamental rights. The only thing there is is a school insurance that only covers accidents at work and professional illnesses.

One could claim eventually but if you wanted to start a legal action you can’t because there is no employment relationship. Take for example a student sexually harassed during practice. The law establishes procedures and articles on workplace sexual harassment but they are for workers, so what happens if the student suffers sexual harassment? It is not classified as a crime, so if it occurs in private, it is regulated by the Labor Code. There is another clear defenselessness of the student.

-Furthermore, faced with this kind of collapse of the labor market, there is a desperation of the student to try to insert himself in it and this enthusiasm makes him present himself in a vulnerable way before certain companies and institutions…

-I concur.

-What do you think of this legal framework?

-It is a practice that we have deeply internalized as part of the work culture, it has a long history in the country’s history, we see it as something common and when a student feels violated and wants to complain, they can be ignored or threatened with being kicked out of the space of practice.

All the requirements to establish an employment relationship are met but they are not recognized as workers: there is a precariousness and exclusion of the student in practice. We talk about job insecurity because all the requirements established by law to talk about job insecurity are met.

It is not about establishing high salaries but there is no social security contribution, many practices do not offer any money income, the only thing they have is accident insurance, but there is a total abandonment and finally it ends up depending on the will of the employer.

-Is it very utopian to think that practitioners could be considered workers, at least a different type of worker?

-Under no circumstances is it utopian, in fact it is something that should be discussed. We have to move forward in this discussion and I would dare to say that although the constitutions do not have much to do with this matter, the proposal for a new constitution oriented the discussion towards that path because it established labor dignity. The constitutional approach, constitutional supremacy is a general framework of the legal system from which other norms emerge.

The Labor Code and the labor laws establish labor principles that are indicative in nature and within them is the primacy of reality, which indicates that even with documents, for example, a ticket or a fee contract, in practice if they are developed as workers are going to be workers with all their rights. So it seems complex, complicated or interesting to me that this principle that applies to all people does not apply to students in practice.

It even happened with Uber workers, there were failures that established a relationship of subordination and dependence on Rappi workers, they are all recognized except the practitioners.

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