June 18, 2013
After a spell of agonizing which made him seem at times like trade unionism’s answer to Carlos Reutemann, UOM metal workers union leader Antonio Caló has finally confirmed his candidacy to replace the two-term teamster Hugo Moyano at the CGT helm. In hindsight, his recalcitrance seems far less any genuine second thoughts (even if UOM is much more his comfort zone) or even pushing a “Draft Caló” movement than a bid to obtain advance delivery on some trade union demands instead of promises in return for taking on Moyano. Because Caló and Moyano differ over means rather than ends — there is no Moyano demand (whether a higher income tax floor or family benefits or the union-run health care schemes) to which Caló would not wholly subscribe. The difference is tactical with Moyano more the street fighter while Caló is a born negotiator. And while Moyano sees his broken alliance with the Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administration and shunned demands as a declaration of war, Caló can see a bigger picture while sharing those demands — for example, that UOM membership has grown fivefold under the Kirchner presidencies.
Yet the fact that Caló is more comfortable with his anti-Moyano candidacy does not necessarily make him more at home with the CFK administration — indeed quite possibly the contrary. On at least two fronts tension with the government is likelier to grow. One is inflation — while public patience has long been strained by INDEC statistics bureau’s absurd data, INDEC’s latest claim that a person only needs six pesos a day to eat properly seems to have been the straw which has broken the back of many camels, including Caló (if the classic cinematic poverty-stricken family in the film Esperando la carroza had only three empanadas, six pesos today would barely suffice for one empanada). Yet trade unions feel more directly threatened by the government takeover of the health funding so central to their financial clout, ever since Liliana Korenfeld took over the superintendence of national health services with a direct grip on the billion-plus APE high-complexity treatment administration (one of the most notorious cash cows). It is no longer a question of pushing for alleged health scheme arrears — trade unions now face an existential threat.
A star is thus born on one side of the labour spectrum but nobody is indispensable — if Caló stands by his aim to ride the two horses of government dialogue and Moyano demands amid growing socio-economic tensions, he might find the doubts about his candidacy extending well beyond himself.