January 21, 2018
Monday, August 22, 2016

Dissent undermines CGT unification

Transport leader Juan Carlos Schmid, health workers’ Héctor Daer and service station’s Carlos Acuña are expected to be elected as CGT leaders today.

Multiple leaders from influential labour grouping set to give today’s congress the cold shoulder

The long-awaited unification of the CGT umbrella union, which was intended to put an end to internal dissent in the highly influential labour grouping, looks set to be overshadowed today as many leaders are expected to give the crucial summit the cold shoulder.

An increasing number of leaders have said of late that they will not attend the closely watched “normalization Congress” at the Obras Sanitarias stadium that begins this morning, due to disagreements over how the procedure is being handled and their doubts about the organization’s long-term political future.

While a triumvirate, likely made up of transport leader Juan Carlos Schmid, health workers’ Héctor Daer and service stations’ Carlos Acuña, is expected to be chosen to lead the CGT during today’s massive union meeting, the new leadership will be born fragile and face questions over its legitimacy, with two big groups of unions challenging the move and one of them even arguing it should be nullified.

Organizations close to rural workers’ chief Gerónimo “Momo” Venegas, one of President Mauricio Macri’s closest allies inside the CGT, has sent written missives to the confederation of unions and to the Labour Ministry anticipating that they will legally challenge the legality of the congress as “completely null and void,” although they clarified that Venegas was not planning to create a new, parallel CGT.

Another dissident group led by Unión Ferroviaria railway union’s Sergio Sasia and backed by other powerful leaders such as taxi drivers’ Omar Viviani, SMATA autoworkers’ Ricardo Pignanelli and Luz y Fuerza electricity workers’ Guillermo Moser, is also questioning the move.

“How is it possible to speak of unity when representatives of electricity, railroad, oil, tobacco, taxi unions and so many others are being excluded? How can the unity tag be used to describe what the same old groups have damaged with their old methodologies?,” representatives of the dissident Argentine Movement for Union Action (MASA) told the Télam news agency.

Thus, while Schmid, Daer and Acuña — the three members of the triumvirate likely to be named tomorrow — are strong allies of each of the heads of the previous three CGTs (teamsters’ Hugo Moyano from the CGT Azopardo, metalworkers’ Antonio Caló from the CGT Alsina and restaurant workers’ Luis Barrionuevo from the Blue and White CGT), and this fact could support the new leadership’s claims of legitimacy to an extent, the groups questioning the triumvirate’s real representativeness and even the legality of the move are growing stronger by the minute.

Political allies

While the most influential figures of the soon-to-be unified CGT are already making noises about potential protest moves and even national strikes against Macri’s government, Venegas argues that the new leadership would “try to divide the labour movement and use the CGT as a political tool of (Renewal Front leader Sergio) Massa.”

To support his claim, Venegas could argue that Daer, for example, is a Renewal Front lawmaker, although others backing the triumvirate have been more ambivalent about their relationship with political leaders.

Venegas, much of whose power lies in his leadership and influence over the so-called 62 Peronist Organizations, is seen by others in the CGT as answering to Macri. The rural workers’ leader met the president at the most recent Rural Society fairgrounds exhibition and was full of praise for the government, in contrast to a more critical or ambivalent approach from other CGT leaders.

Despite its name, meanwhile, the MASA group’s union leaders does not answer to Massa but actually have ties to other sectors of Peronism, including former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and former ANSES social security chief Diego Bossio, whose splinter Justicialista caucus in Congress does not directly respond to either Massa or CFK.

The MASA group rejected today’s normalizing Congress on the basis that there “has been a total lack of debate to determine a programatic agenda with clear and concrete goals over what kind of country we want to push for.”

The group has frequently cricized old-guard CGT leaders for not being “horizontal” or “democratic” enough, making unconsulted decisions in private meetings of bureaucratic leaders.

Their power is not insignificant either, with leaders boasting about how a railroad strike could paralyze much of Greater Buenos Aires’ economic activity or how taxi drivers repeatedly brought city traffic to a halt during the recent anti-Uber protests.

Last-minute negotiations

Both the MASA and the Venegas group are expected to abstain from voting for the incoming triumvirate, but those aligned with the triumvirate are making last-minute efforts for a change of heart.

MASA sources told Télam that “a last attempt to secure the participation of the group” has taken place, with Caló offering key positions within the new leadership to Sasia, Pignanelli and Moser.

The proposal was not successful, however.

Other negotiations include what the wording of tomorrow’s CGT documents will be, with bank clerks’ unionist Sergio Palazzo calling for a strongly-worded critique of the current socio-economic situation.

Among triumvirate-backers, meanwhile, some have been speaking strongly about how “after years divisions, everything is valid to secure unity.” Even if it’s achieved tomorrow, the remaining tensions could mean that the new leadership ends up being a far from stable one.

Herald with DyN, Télam

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