EFESantiago

Several thousand workers and students gathered on Tuesday in Santiago to support the general strike called by the CUT labor federation to demand labor reform that recognizes greater rights for unions.

The strike, which will be staged in Chile's main cities, is also aimed at demanding an end to the private pension system, improvements in public health and a new constitution, CUT president Barbara Figueroa told reporters minutes before the start of the demonstration in the capital.

Also turning out for the protest are high school and university student organizations, public employees, teachers and other unions, including the journalists guild.

In Santiago, four columns of demonstrators will converge from the four compass points on central Heroes Square, three blocks from La Moneda palace, the government headquarters, for the main protest event.

The mobilization, Figueroa said, "is a call to action" for a labor reform bill that during its way through the Senate was modified in ways that run counter to its original content and spirit.

The government's bill was primarily aimed at changing business-worker relations by strengthening the unions and collective bargaining, but, after initially being approved by the lower house, it was modified in the Senate.