Labour protests escalated last week in the days preceding yesterday’s march against the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Subway workers, who had been staging brief rotating strikes line by line in previous weeks, brought the service to a complete halt on Tuesday following the arrest of 16 leaders of their officially unrecognised Metrodelegados union.
The next day teachers held a massive federal march to press for collective bargaining at a national level and to protest against the pay increase ceiling of 15 percent.
Some 700,000 commuters were left stranded by Tuesday’s total subway stoppage, which began around afternoon rush hour and severely disrupted downtown traffic.
Strikers blocking an attempt to establish an emergency service on “H” line were forcibly evicted by riot squad police. An indefinite strike was called after the arrests and although service was relatively normal on Wednesday, there were fresh clashes on Thursday.
City Hall took a firm line against Metrodelegados as lacking the legal status to negotiate wages although several Kirchnerite and leftist City legislators rallied to the support of the strikers on Tuesday.
While the turnout at the federal march was indisputably massive, opinions were more divided as to the success of the accompanying teacher strike on Wednesday – government estimates were around 40 percent while the organisers claimed over 90 percent adhesion.
But as many as 200,000 teachers (280,000 according to the organisers) converged on Plaza de Mayo to listen to their national and Buenos Aires province leaders, Sonia Alesso (Ctera) and Roberto Baradel.
This federal march (with important contingents from northern and Patagonian provinces starting on Monday) was the second of this year with the first in March.