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ARGENTINA | 12-10-2022 22:39

Collective bargaining, inflation, union divisions: Orange alert as October heats up

Runaway three-digit wage increases impact on multiple fronts. Tussle among unions to clinch the biggest wage hikes, conflict between the CGT and leftist groupings over increasingly poor wage-earners. The business world watches on, fearing escalation.

Amid the fallout on all sides from leftist union leader Alejandro Crespo’s collective bargaining talks, carried out on behalf of his tyre workers union, and a working-class with wages eroded by an inflation which shows no signs of going away, trade unions have begun a race to see who can negotiate the best pay. 

Without hiding the differences between the main union leaders and while aware of their social situation, there is no strategy in common, something that will be reflected in next Monday’s upcoming Peronist Loyalty Day celebrations. Separate rallies are planned.

Teamster boss Pablo Moyano was one of the first leaders to celebrate Crespo’s stance, giving businessmen of his sector to understand that they must respond to demands aimed at a 131-percent wage increase. There is no agreement as yet and when consulted by Perfil, the CGT secretary-general did not rule out what happened between the tyre workers’ union and that sector’s bosses being replicated in a not so distant future – especially considering that prices keep escalating.

“It will depend on the negotiation of each trade union, we know what’s going on, as do the businessmen, and we don’t want them to give us any old thing,” warned the trade union representative. 

Within this framework, Sergio Palazzo, the Frente de Todos deputy close to Kirchnerism who represents La Bancaria bank clerks union, closed his latest round of collective bargaining with an annual 94.1 percent, following a 60 percent agreement last May celebrated by Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Jorge Sola, the man in charge of CGT communications for his insurance clerks trade union, has also highlighted the 109.75 percent increase obtained for the period between last and next January.

Meanwhile the SUSB (Sindicato Único de Serenos de Buques) union of maritime maintenance workers did not want to be left behind. It reviewed its 2022-23 agreement to end up with a total increase of 94 percent. These are rounds of collective bargaining which mark the shape of things which could come to pass, always if and when the firepower of each trade union warrants it.

In any case, from the viewpoint of one of the younger cadres on the CGT directive council, with these levels of inflation, pay negotiations are always going to be running “behind” with the fight concentrated on keeping up.

“Both sides in the conflict are right in part but there is also a lot of intransigence and that’s how negotiations get bogged down with one secretary-general with a very particular leftist ideology but in the rest of collective bargaining dialogue prevails,” the source maintained.

Another leader who thinks that what happened a few weeks ago at the Labour Ministry between the PO Trotskyist militant and the companies will not influence other conversations on pay increases is Sergio Sasia, the secretary-general of the powerful CATT (Confederación Argentina de Trabajadores del Transporte), under the thumb of veteran union kingpin Hugo Moyano.

In a conversation with Perfil, he expressed that the road to any pay discussions must be determined by dialogue and consensus, giving a practical example, his own: “My Unión Ferroviaria [railwaymen] topped 40 percent for six months in collective bargaining, including a review in October and a bonus to be collected in November. We did not have to kick down doors, we conversed and came to an agreement,” he underlined.

Dodging the tyre workers issues, since he is not interested in delivering an opinion on the debates of others while believing that a specific case is “no parameter,” Sasia ventured into some “self-criticism.”

“We are engaged in a media battle to see who does best in collective bargaining when in reality we should be asking for a pay increase floor from the CGT, we should be in agreement,” he reflected.

For now, he does not agree with a fixed-sum bonus granted by the government, as requested by some Kirchnerite leaders, and he considers it necessary to advance towards universal family benefits – an issue close to the heart of Hugo Moyano’s teamster son Pablo who has even conversed it with Alberto Fernández and Sergio Massa.


We all march together (dis)united

On the foundationalPeronist day of October 17, the trade unions will be marching divided between the so-called ‘gordos’ labour establishment, independents and Luis Barrionuevo’s backers. The three sectors will concentrate forces at Obras Sanitarias headquarters where 5,000 leaders will gather and give details on the Corriente Sindical Peronista, a group preparing to discuss Congress candidacies within Frente de Todos.

Meanwhile, Pablo Moyano and his union branches will make their presence felt in Plaza de Mayo together with the two CTA labour umbrellas and social movements. It will be a propitious occasion, warn various trade union leaders, to revive demands regarding a critical social situation. Héctor Amichetti, who heads the FGB (Federación Gráfica Bonaerense) printers and is associate leader of the Corriente Federal de Trabajadores (CFT), anticipated that the aim will be to ask for “unity on the basis of social justice and sovereignty.”

The leader detailed: “The idea is to draft a joint document signed by many sectors and participating massively that day in the march. That text will be read and go public on October 17. There we will analyse the national reality and ratify our historic claims.”

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Juan Pablo Kavanagh

Juan Pablo Kavanagh


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