May 23, 2013
When two hearts beat as one
Summer is the season for beach holidays but also collective wage bargaining where battle has been well and truly joined at an early point in the year — and not so much with the most hostile of the CGT chiefs Hugo Moyano (trying to work out a political space of his own and hardly a factor on the labour front) as with the supposedly pro-government CGT headed by UOM metal workers leader Antonio Caló, thus showing how simplistic it was ever to imagine that the problem was restricted to Moyano. While it would also be simplistic to say that there is no real difference between the claims of dissident and loyalist trade union groupings — thus the ATE state workers union headed by dissident CTA chief Pablo Micheli demands a 48 percent wage increase while the Kirchnerite CTA leader Hugo Yasky has said that 25 percent would be fine for his teachers (although Yasky’s Buenos Aires provincial colleagues push 60 percent)— raising the income tax floor by 56-57 percent, as requested by the pro-government CGT last Thursday, sounds much closer to a Moyano demand than to friendly moderation.
The counter-offer by the government — raising the income tax floor by 20 percent if trade unions accept a wage cap of that percentage whereas Caló’s colleagues no more agree to a pay ceiling than Moyano ever did (even if the usually moderate teamster wage increase often served as a benchmark during his pro-government days) — only underlines the distance between the Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administration and its presumed labour allies. The latter did at least take to heart one proposal by CFK late last year — that if they were going to reduce her coffers by several billion pesos, they should offer revenue alternatives. The trade unionists apparently did not think too hard before coming up with the three most obvious beneficiaries of the high growth over the last decade — the banking, mining and farming sectors. Most populist administrations might be expected to fall in readily enough with this idea but in the last year the state capitalist wing of the government has been gaining so much ground at the expense of the traditional trade unionist spine of the Peronist movement that any consensus is unlikely.
While the advent of collective wage bargaining and the height of the summer holiday season tend to come at the same time, the same cannot be said of strike action — the bargaining process has to be given a few weeks at least and anyway staying away from work in an empty January city would not make the same impression. But we can certainly expect labour conflicts before this year is too advanced and perhaps even a long, hot summer.