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ARGENTINA | 29-12-2023 21:43

CGT union calls first national strike over Milei reforms

Javier Milei will face his first general strike after just more than a month in office; Argentina’s top umbrella union group calls for a nationwide protest against his plans to deregulate the country’s economy.

Leaders from the CGT umbrella union grouping on Thursday called for a general strike over President Javier Milei's reforms aimed at liberalising the country's economy.

Héctor Daer, the general secretary of the General Confederation of Labour (CGT), said the strike on January 24 was in protest against a decree and package of bills announced by Milei, which "go against all of society" and give the president "all public power."

The veteran union leader also rejected Milei's claim that there is a situation of necessity or urgency that justifies the decree.

Milei took office on December 10 and has taken steps to fulfill his campaign promise to slash public spending and shake up an economy crumbling under annual inflation of 160 percent.

Congress is sitting in extraordinary session this week to consider a package of bills issued to give effect to a mega-decree he unveiled last week.

The decree can be overturned if it is rejected by both houses of Congress. Otherwise it comes into force on Friday.

The decree would change or scrap more than 350 economic regulations in a country accustomed to heavy government intervention in the market. 

"This decree attacks the individual rights of workers, collective rights, a universal and united health system, and an incalculable number of subjects that constitute our country," said Daer.

Milei also presented to Congress this week a package of modifications to laws that will allow the privatisation of more than 40 public companies and will limit the right to assembly and demonstration.

The so-called "omnibus bill" containing about 600 items affects a number of areas of public and private life, from fiscal and electoral issues, to the calculation of pensions or the introduction of an "express divorce."

The bill, several hundred pages long, gives Milei additional powers to decide on economic policy throughout his term. 

"The objective is to begin the path of reconstruction of the country, to return freedom and autonomy to individuals and to begin to dismantle the enormous amount of regulations that have stopped, hindered and impeded economic growth," Milei said last week as he announced the legislative package and decree.

Facing rising protests, Milei's government has warned demonstrators they will lose their right to social assistance and will be billed for the cost of security.

Thousands of protesters on Wednesday demanded the courts intervene to invalidate the mega-decree they say would carve away at worker and consumer protections.

The CGT, which has some seven million members, on Wednesday asked the courts to declare Milei's decree unconstitutional.

"There is no contact with the government, and we did not propose this dynamic," said Daer.

The strike will be the biggest test yet to Milei’s plans to reduce the hand of the state in Argentina’s crisis-prone economy.

It will also test the hard-line approach of Security Minister Patricia Bullrich, who recently announced a series of measures to limit protests and street blockades carried out without a permit.

 

– TIMES/AFP

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