Simpler times. Labor Minister Jorge Triaca smiles at a meeting with union members regarding the debate of the labor laws. Now, that same bill has been postponed. (Photo via Telam/ Florencia Downes)

According to a report by Infobae, the government has decided to postpone debating the labor law’s reform during the Congress’ extraordinary sessions in February. This means that they’re giving up on their intention of implementing the initiative immediately after sanctioning the recently passed reforms to the pension and fiscal systems.

The main reasons that motivated this decision were the fact that some of the changes introduced by the bill would be decidedly unpopular, and the Macri administration might believe it’s in no condition to take another hit in its public image: According to different polls, the government’s and President Mauricio Macri’s approval rates took a nose dive in December; a result of the pension system’s reform and the increases in numerous utilities and services that have been announced and/or implemented.

The second and most important reason though, is the lack of support from political actors in and out of Congress. The government needs the bill to not only be approved, but also to be accepted enough so as to at least try and prevent the repetition of the apocalyptic scenario we saw when the pension system’s reform was being debated.

The government hasn’t managed to get the leaders of the CGT (General Workers Union, the largest union in the country) to announce their support for the reform. Even though representatives from both camps have held several meetings during the last months of 2017, and that the Labor Ministry led by Jorge Triaca even released a statement announcing they had reached “the necessary consensus” to have the bill on the floor in the near future, that scenario seems to have changed, and while the union’s approval was never particularly loud, it now seems to be further away.

“The bill doesn’t come from us or from any part of the workers’ movement, it comes exclusively from the Executive Branch. If the government wants to move forward with it, they can do so,” said Héctor Daer, a member of the CGT’s triumvirate, during the weekend. Jeez, now that’s some overwhelming enthusiasm.

According to Clarín, this plain reluctance to back the bill has to do largely with internal disputes within the union. “There’s a risk that they [the warring factions within the CGT] will be looking for confrontation just to see who’s the toughest one, and that changes the strategy,” a government official told the outlet.

The union’s support is key because it not only guarantees a lower caliber of eventual protests on the streets during a debate in Congress – although we could definitely expect large demonstrations from other organizations – but also because it will smooth the road to getting the votes from the Justicialist Party (PJ), something the government needs in order to be able to pass the reform.

According to Clarín, leader of the PJ’s caucus in the Upper House Miguel Ángel Pichetto has made it clear that the Senators who vote with him will do what the CGT instructs them to, and for now, that instruction is “no.” La Nación reported that the government had also contemplated the possibility of breaking down the reform into multiple bills, and negotiating them one by one. However, according to that same newspaper, that plan was dismissed “for the simple reason that the opposition would only discuss the bills favorable to them,” and so the rest of the reform would never be treated again.

That means we’ll basically have to wait and see where this giant game of chess takes us.