Thursday, April 18, 2024

ARGENTINA | 23-02-2024 07:26

Protests, strikes, unions 'on alert’: unrest against Javier Milei’s government grows

Javier Milei is moving forward with steep spending cuts in a bid to achieve fiscal balance, but sectors are showing their reluctance – social and labour unrest on the rise. Just 75 days into his term in office, pressure on the president is growing.

With 75 days of his administration gone, President Javier Milei must deal with the claims of several union sectors opposing his steep austerity plans. From transport and teachers to healthcare workers and state employees, they have all set a date for national strikes. 

The CGT umbrella union group broke a record in announcing a national strike just 44 days after the president's inauguration. With representatives saying they are in a “state of alert and mobilisation," the nation's largest labour confederation is considering further action.

Union leader Pablo Moyano, a deputy leader in the Teamsters’ Union, has anticipated that “unfortunately, this will turn out badly,” in light of the country’s situation. He counters that “fight and struggle is the path.”

“It could be a new demonstration or general strike, I think we’re heading for a big national strike,” he said this week.

On the other hand, Milei is intensifying his intransigence, firmly promising not to roll back on his vows. “We have a hard time understanding why there is such rage against this government,” Presidential Spokesman Manuel Adorni stated this week as he was quizzed on a railway strike that affected tens of thousands of passengers. 

“Argentina will pull through by working and the problems this country has today are 100 percent the legacy of a policy that has destroyed the country. We respect any industrial action and any type of demonstration – unions are within those we respect as such, regardless of our bafflement at so much rage against a government that is so few weeks old,” the official stated at a press conference. 

For the government, the new wave of strikes amount to “complete nonsense.” The Milei administration wants to “expose” those who call action – midweek, the Casa Rosada pointed the finger at rail-workers group La Fraternidad, headed by Omar Maturano, as “the only union who called it.”

The Transport Secretariat highlighted that collective bargaining talks are open and that earlier this month a 16-percent increase was granted for workers’ gross salaries. 

In tune with what is suggested by Adorni, from the Secretariat they revealed that “the industrial action by La Fraternidad is unexplainable, and it carries bad faith in negotiations in the middle of collective bargaining, even when positive results in agreements were reached earlier this month.”

On Thursday, employees grouped by the FATSA Federation of Argentine Healthcare Workers’ Associations, headed by Héctor Daer, also protested with a 24-hour strike. 

“Given the intransigence of business chambers, the Healthcare Board in its entirety resolves to have a 24-hour National Strike on Thursday 02/22. We will move forward with any necessary union action to reinstate our comrades’ wages,” the union leader stated on his X account.

Four teachers’ unions within the CGT also announced that the start of the school year would be affected at state schools due to the industrial action. The UDA Argentine Teachers’ Union, the AMET Technical Masters’ Association, SADOP Argentine Private Teachers’ Union and CEA Argentine Educators’ Confederation made the announcement jointly after the failure of national collective bargaining talks.

“Health, security and education are the responsibility of the provinces. They should be in charge,” responded Milei in a radio interview when asked about the rest.

With Javier Milei’s administration just 75 days old, healthcare, education and transport services will face disruption this year.

Thus, despite the few days of this administration, it will be damaged by hospital care, the start of the school year and transport.


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