Saturday, May 18, 2024

ARGENTINA | 06-05-2024 14:30

Unions in Argentina ramp up protests against Milei’s labour reforms

Workers' assemblies complicate transport in and around Buenos Aires, with social groups set to demonstrate on Tuesday and the CGT's nationwide strike scheduled for Thursday.

Argentina's land, air and maritime public transport unions protested on Monday against the labour reforms being promoted by President Javier Milei’s government

The demonstrations kicked off a week of protests in Argentina and took place just days before Thursday’s nationwide general strike, called by the powerful CGT umbrella union group.

In Buenos Aires on Monday, underground metro and overground rail train lines faced delays due to worker assemblies, while bus lines were also operating at reduced numbers. 

Flights from state-owned carrier Aerolineas Argentinas were also affected, prompting delays and cancellations of services.

Tomorrow is also likely to see transport delays with picket groups and social organisations planning to march again in the capital. They will be demanding greater food assistance for soup kitchens and community centres, as well as improved aid for the impoverished.

Continuing the week of social unrest, the CGT umbrella union – which has some seven million affiliated workers – will on Thursday call on workers to walk off the job as it stages the second national strike of the Milei administration.

Since taking office last December, Milei has embarked upon a strict fiscal adjustment, enforcing austerity measures in a bid to balance the books. Among other measures, officials have moved to eliminate sweeping subsidies for utilities, remove price controls and downsize the government.

However, the massive cutbacks have been met with criticism from Milei’s opponents, who point to the thousands of lay-offs at state bodies and a collapse in economic activity and consumption.

Milei’s government is seeking labour reform as part of its so-called ‘Omnibus’/’Ley de Bases’ bill, which was passed by the lower house Chamber of Deputies and now needs approval by the Senate, where the ruling party has just seven out of 72 senators.

The proposed legislation, which includes more than 230 articles, includes a relaxation of rules governing the registration of employees and a broad whitewashing of tax evasion penalties for companies involved in labour fraud.

Amongst other things, it also includes the declaration of an “economic and energy emergency” for one year and delegates extra powers to the Executive. A controversial investment incentive scheme and changes to rules governing pensions are also on the wishlist, while more than a dozen state firms would also be opened up for privatisation, either fully or partly as concessions.

Congress is also debating tax reform in an accompanying fiscal package that would reinstate income tax for high earners and establish new scales for pensions payments.

Last week, the nation’s main trade union groupings took to the streets for International Workers' Day, during which they called on Milei’s government to backtrack on its sweeping spending cuts. 

At the end of April, hundreds of thousands of people marched to denounce the defunding of state universities and to save the CONICET technical and scientific research body. 

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates a 2.8 percent drop for Argentina's economy this year and projects annual inflation of around 150 per cent.


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