President-elect Alberto Fernández on Friday called on trade unionists to be protagonists of a new Argentina, saying that "organised labour forms part of the government which will be installed in Argentina on December 10" while participating in a CGT plenary meeting at the umbrella labour grouping’s historic Azopardo 802 headquarters.
Also in attendancer were a host of Peronist governors and mayors as well as numerous trade union leaders, including the teamster Hugo Moyano.
"Organised labour forms part of the government which will be installed in Argentina on December 10 and that is not [the result of] a political agreement but a conviction we all have,” said Fernández from inside the iconic CGT building, which he admitted he was entering for the first time in his life.
His solution to the crisis centres on a tripartite socio-economic pact between the government, employers and trade unionists with organised labour now poised to play a key part in this process.
Fernández outlined this social pact in order to face an economy in recession with 55 percent inflation and over 35 percent of the population below the poverty line.
"We will appeal once more to those who produce and those who work but it will not just be a wage-price agreement but will design the future Argentina needs,” he said.
Fernández appealed to the five umbrella labour groupings (three CGT and two CTA) who united behind the Frente de Todos campaign to defeat the Macri government to also unite among themselves.
His speech was laden with references to Juan Domingo and Eva Perón, as well as to such touchstones of trade union history as José Ignacio Rucci and Saúl Ubaldini.
"The mandate which Perón left us is more present than ever today. These days Argentina needs to get back on its feet. They’ve left us very damaged with the economy highly degraded, as are labour and education," pointed out Fernández in his message.
"They make us believe that in order to fix Argentina you have to take rights away from those who work. I don’t understand that logic. Argentina added value when [Juan Bautista] Alberdi and [Domingo] Sarmiento worked to make education public.” he said.
“If something distinguished Argentina it was those rights incorporated by Perón: midyear and Christmas bonuses, a salary, holidays … and finally union-run healthcare. We’re going to look after those rights,” he continued, while also admitting that times change and that “the problems of the 1940s or the 1970s are not those now.”
His speech also included a tribute to his running-mate, vice-president-elect Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, highlighting her "enormous gesture" in stepping down from a presidential nomination.
“This day is possible because we united. The secret of this triumph is none other than unity and effort, in particular from Cristina because she’s the essence of this triumph … because with Cristina it was not enough and without her it was not possible and nobody understood this better than Cristina,” he said.
His audience included CGT secretaries-general Héctor Daer and Carlos Acuña together with trade union leaders including Moyano, Antonio Caló (metal workers), Sergio Sasia (railwaymen), Ramón Ayala (Uatre farm hands), Sergio Palazzo (bank clerks), Andrés Rodríguez (UPCN civil service employees), Armando Cavalieri (retail workers), José Luis Lingieri (waterworks), Omar Plaini (news vendors) and Amadeo Genta (municipal employees).
The political presence included Buenos Aires Province governor-elect Axel Kiciloff, future lower house Speaker Sergio Massa and Fernández transition team members Eduardo "Wado" de Pedro, Santiago Cafiero and Gustavo Beliz.
Also present were many Peronist mayors such as Martín Insaurralde (Lomas de Zamora), Fernando Grey (Esteban Echeverría), Mariano Cascallares (Almirante Brown), Gustavo Menéndez (Merlo), Alberto Descalzo (Ituzaingó) and Juan Pablo de Jesús (Partido de la Costa) as well as Governors Juan Luis Manzur (Tucumán), Gildo Insfrán (Formosa) and Sergio Uñac (San Juan) together with Justicialist Party national chairman José Luis Gioja.
Even before Fernández spoke, Daer prompted him by saying: “We’re part of the coming government … Peronism always governs with the workers."
'More united than ever'
Opening the event, Acuña said: "Now comes the hardest part, we must be more united than ever to pull the country through,” adding that the new government "will have the full support of the workers so that things go well.”
At the other end of the speeches, the president-elect concluded by proposing to convert the emblematic Azopardo building into "a centre of technological education for workers and youth,” adding that in his presidency "education, science and technology will be primordial; that’s how we’ll get back on our feet."
Moyano, whose attendance was in doubt until the last minute, was a low-key presence, denying any ambition to return to the CGT in the new future and downplaying the possibility of any strikes in the immediate future although he expressed concern about the teacher conflict in Chubut.
But in a recent interview he expressed himself more forcefully on the outgoing Mauricio Macri government: “Thank God he’s going. I could not stand any longer his policies of starvation, poverty, lies and handing over the country. They speak as if they’re leaving the country in better condition and it’s completely the contrary."