May 18, 2013
Back on guard
By Michael Soltys
Buenos Aires Herald Senior Editor
In midweek the Border and Coast Guards vacated the Plaza de Mayo in favour of last Wednesday’s CGT and CTA labour protests, not to return, but their pay dispute has been patched up at best after nine days (with Defence Minister Arturo Puricelli insisting that military salaries were fully in order as the week ended). The resignation of Security Minister Nilda Garré’s chief ministerial adviser (and brother) Raúl Garré had both everything and nothing to do with the dispute being lifted. Everything because it served various political purposes at once, providing a more substantial scapegoat for the security force salary chaos than a “trial industry” while underlining Garré’s eclipse at the hands of her deputy minister Sergio Berni (visibly in charge of all negotiations). And nothing because a crisis caused by a clumsy bid to streamline all the odds and ends of security force pay was patched up by improvising yet another bonus outside basic pay to ease the lowest categories without repealing or amending the offending decree.
This solution seems to have been more effective than satisfactory. Since the government spent various days insisting it had no money to meet the demands, it still remains to be seen if the promised improvements come through and if they do, whether they would not then become a dangerous precedent for the rest of the public sector. But even if the promises amount to more than words, the government is still contradicting not only its original aim of merging security force fringe benefits and bonuses into a single salary, but also its far more general policy of ending all under-the-counter payments throughout the economy. With this kind of example, why should the private sector ensure that its employees are all legalized with their tax status and social security contributions are in order, at a time when fiscal red ink is spreading?
During the nine days the virtual mutiny lasted, it became a stock joke that on the famous “7-D” (now apparently converted to December 10 ever since Wednesday’s presidential speech) the government would send in the Border Guards to enforce a federal trusteeship on certain newspaper groups not in line with the media law, only to find its Praetorian Guard up in arms or sulking in barracks. But having the security forces on such a precarious shoestring is anything but a joke, not only in view of the persistent crimewave but also with people increasingly taking to the street, whether for better or for worse.