September 23, 2014
Labour looking very laboured
Following a first week of the school term plagued by teacher strikes in Buenos Aires province at least, the labour front is looking increasingly complex — especially since the stimulus package announced by President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner last Thursday was an implicit admission of an increasingly tight job situation as slowdown threatens to slip into recession. To deepen the battle lines, Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich last week ruled out for the umpteenth time any elevation of the income tax floor (the top grievance for many trade unions, however improbably bourgeois this might sound for a labour agenda) — bank clerks at least claim that 90 percent of their ranks now pay income tax and duly went on strike last Thursday (thus doing the government an involuntary favour because the Central Bank could snap up all that day’s grain export dollars for its reserves). The car industry is especially stricken by the economic downturn with the closure of the conflict-ridden Lear auto parts plant in Pacheco for the next fortnight perhaps the clearest manifestation of that crisis. Buenos Aires province teachers are not alone in feeling that inflation has already overtaken their gains from the collective bargaining earlier this year — various unions are demanding a second 2014 round. Last but not least, a general strike more or less worthy of that name looms as the anti-government wings of the CGT and CTA umbrella labour groupings mend the differences which had arisen.
CFK’s presentation of her package was perhaps more striking for using the word “anti-cyclical” for almost the first time in her lexicon rather than for the actual contents — throwing money at problems is no guarantee of a solution (quite apart from the fact that Capitanich’s intransigence over the income tax floor is largely due to the state’s need for all the revenue it can grasp in the face of a spiralling fiscal deficit as an already excessive public spending is starting to run into its limits as a tool). The package included the renewal of the bus fleet and the revival of the CEDIN certificates (to whitewash dollars abroad via real estate investment, this time offering banks commissions in order to arouse their interest), as well as subsidies to companies to protect jobs.
But at least CFK cannot be accused of taking her fight with the vulture funds to the finish without making provisions for the recession which the default (however technical) is likely to deepen.