January 21, 2018

Government and cgt remain on negotiating terms

Monday, August 22, 2016

Peronist unions and Macri: a year of criticism but no strikes

President Mauricio Macri’s relationship with Peronist trade unions has had its ups and downs — but as president it’s been a much more quiet one than what a casual observer would expect, given their different ideological backgrounds.

The Let’s Change (Cambiemos) ruling coalition is not Peronist in its origins, but it has found ways of keeping the traditional CGT union somewhat in line with its plans, despite a year in which the purchasing power of salaries has fallen significantly.

The unions’ biggest challenge to Macri to date came through an International Workers’ Day protest, where two of the three CGT leaders, Hugo Moyano and Antonio Caló, joined forces with both CTA leaders, Pablo Micheli and Hugo Yasky, to protest layoffs and the loss of purchasing power.

But on that day, Moyano’s tone in his closing speech was a moderate one, with the teamsters’ leader saying that “we are not enemies of the government, we are enemies of the government’s policies against workers.” He said the rally was “not against anyone” in particular.

That protest did not include a walkout either, in contrast to industrial action that took place during the last year of Cristina Fernández de Kirchner administration. While Moyano, Caló and others have sometimes spoken critically of Macri and suggested that a general strike could be on the cards, such a move never actually took place so far.

Caló, Moyano and other key unionists, such as CGT Azul & Blanca’s Luis Barrionuevo or UATRE rural worker’s representative Gerónimo “Momo” Venegas, have all held multiple meetings with Macri, and according to their own versions of events, rising unemployment or other social impacts from Macri’s reforms have not been at the centre of their negotiations.

The continued flow of state funds to union-run healthcare schemes, instead, has been central in keeping Macri and the Peronist unions on the same page. Unionists also see a good relationship with Macri as important, some say in order to avoid the close scrutiny that potential corruption cases, involving some of their representatives, could bring.

Labour Minister Jorge Triaca, whose father of the same name was a prominent leader of right-wing CGT factions in his youth and served as Carlos Menem’s Labour minister during the first three years of that presidency, has been a key player in these negotiations with his Peronist ties and familial experience in labour circles.

His appointment was backed by most unions at the time, although there could still be sparks capable of igniting conflicts coming further down the road, with the government said to be preparing planning reforms to labour regulations, pensions and postponing the much-demanded cuts to income taxes against which the CGT has striked in previous years.

As a contrast, the CTA could be expected to remain combative, with Yasky still politically close to CFK and Micheli clashing strongly with Macri over issues such as the firing of state workers, where his union holds a strong base.

Herald staff

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