The Central Union of Workers condemned the early-morning strike. Students and copper miners later joined thousands of workers in largely peaceful marches along the streets, chanting and waving banners.
Interior and Security Minister Andres Chadwick reported that only 6.4 percent of all public workers, or about 10,000 out of 161,000, joined the strike.
Chile has fast economic growth and solid institutions. But the world´s top copper producer is also plagued by vast income inequality and an expensive education system that many deem unfair.
Education and tax reform remain key issues ahead of the No. 17 presidential election.