May 22, 2013
Keep on trucking
By Michael Soltys
Buenos Aires Herald Senior Editor
At face value, the move on Monday by teamster Hugo Moyano to deploy his activists to picket the premises of a major wholesale supermarket chain to demand the affiliation of employees working there to his union is strictly a labour conflict. Moyano has contested members with the retail store workers union for a long time. For so long in fact that when the teamsters first launched their crusade to affiliate logistic sector workers in supermarkets, Moyano was still a key ally to the late former president Néstor Kirchner and then to President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
The novelty of this new supermarket conflict over the membership of workers is that it comes now that Moyano is in the opposition and has recently launched a political party that opposes the ruling Victory Front. Moyano has claimed that he quit the Kirchnerite Victory Front coalition because labour demands, such as abolishing the wage income tax, refused to be met by the President. But it would be incredibly shortsighted not to acknowledge that there is also a political element to this story now that the teamsters and the Victory Front are at odds. Moyano knew that his time in the Victory Front was over when the President refused to meet his political demands ahead of the presidential elections in 2011. From that angle, the supermarket pickets are another chapter in the fierce infighting that often grips the Peronist party with complete disregard to the public interest by all sides involved. The pickets come when the national government says it has hammered out “price accords” with supermarkets in a bid to curb inflation. Such “price accords” may well be a desperate bid to deal with inflation in an election year, as the opposition claims. But the fact that the price freeze looks like a desperate measure that could well fail does not justify blatantly aggressive tactics such as picketing. These protests should be condemned as senseless regardless of the context. The political nature of the protest was highlighted by Moyano’s comment during a demonstration yesterday that under Néstor Kirchner things were entirely different from what they are now.
Argentina’s political situation is as complex as ever. But some conclusions should be plain simple to make. Changing sides does not make right what is wrong. If the pickets were wrong when Moyano was on the government’s side then they are wrong now that he is not.