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CGT trio elected amid more internal quarrels

CGT’s new ruling triunvirate consisting of Juan Carlos Schmid, Carlos Acuña and Héctor Daer is pictured after yesterday’s election.

Bank clerks’ leader becomes latest to air discord as Schmid, Daer, Acuña assume leadership

The CGT may have picked its new leadership during a massive event at the Obras Sanitarias stadium yesterday, but contentious issues failed to be resolved despite the umbrella union grouping’s much-touted re-unification. Several key leaders traded verbal blows, exposing political differences in the keynote speeches.

Yesterday’s official election of a triumvirate made up of transport leader Juan Carlos Schmid, health workers’ representative Héctor Daer and service stations’ chief Carlos Acuña — each of whom were backed by the previous leaders of the CGT — was not enough to quell down internal divisions. At one point, yet another key union leader — banking clerk’s rep Sergio Palazzo— angrily walked out of the event and called for a general strike, saying he was unhappy with how little power his group had been offered in the unification process.

The new leadership was not happy, with Daer snapping back that “if anyone makes a speech here and then exits and speaks to the press at the door, pretending to be some kind of revolutionary, then they are playing into the hands of our enemies.”

“The doors of the CGT are open to any union and leader, it’s good to speak out and not be a hypocrite and it’s good to debate. But it is better to find a consensus and to unify the voice of workers,” Daer added.

Palazzo made his move as another group of unionists led by rural workers’ chief Gerónimo “Momo” Venegas asked the Labour Ministry to declare yesterday’s “normalization congress” null and void, arguing that the CGT’s rulebook does not allow for triumvirates heading the organization.

Another big group of influential leaders — including Unión Ferroviaria railway union’s Sergio Sasia, who was backed by other powerful leaders such as taxi drivers’ Omar Viviani, SMATA autoworkers’ Ricardo Pignanelli and Luz y Fuerza electricity workers’ Guillermo Moser — had also announced previously they would not attend the event, putting the legitimacy of the election in doubt.

In his speech during yesterday’s meeting, heavyweight union leader and teamsters’ boss Hugo Moyano, the leader of one of the three CGT factions unifying yesterday, railed against such criticism, saying that “this has been an absolutely democratic event. Those who didn’t agree with the decisions were free to speak up, but regrettably they decided to leave afterwards.”

Moyano recalled how he had been on the losing side during another CGT conflict during the early days of Carlos Menem’s presidency, but said that his side led by Saúl Ubaldini had accepted the defeat after voting.

“We voted but we did not vacate the place afterwards, we were satisfied by having expressed outselves. This proves that we do practise democracy. To practise democracy, they should also have been here and presented a different ticket for the election. But personal interests trumped that,” Moyano said.

To strike or not to strike

Schmid, Daer and Acuña are widely seen as strong allies of each of the heads of the previous three CGTs (Moyano from the CGT Azopardo, metalworkers’ Antonio Caló from the CGT Alsina and restaurant workers’ Luis Barrionuevo from the Blue and White CGT).

But despite that, the three previous leaders did not deliver a uniform message when speaking yesterday.

While Moyano focused on unity and dissidents, Barrionuevo took pains to emphasize that the new CGT should not consider organizing a strike any time soon.

The former Blue and White CGT leader argued that “imposing forceful actions when we have just now committed to unity would show a total lack of respect. I don’t know if we are wise men but we are prudent, and we know when and where to act,” Barrionuevo said.

The restaurant workers’ chief, long opposed to Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s administration, praised the historical figures of José Ignacio Rucci, Augusto Timoteo Vandor and Lorenzo Miguel, whose names were hardly-ever mentioned by the past government and who many see as symbols of “right-wing Peronism.”

Caló, meanwhile, was more critical of the current economic situation and mentioned Macri’s utility rate hikes and the risk of opening up the economy to foreign competition as reasons to stay alert.

He argued that Argentine workers cannot compete with Chinese or Indian industries as those countries have much less rights and protections for workers and are thus much cheaper. A strike could come if the jobs of local workers are put at risk by that kind of competition, Caló argued.

Herald with Télam

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