Photo via Ambito

The tension between the government and unions, especially the General Confederation of Workers (CGT), regarding this year’s salary increases keeps building and the possibility of a general strike seems to be closer to becoming a reality every day.

CGT representatives argue that the salary increases negotiated this year haven’t been enough due to the high rate of inflation and as a compensation are now demanding a year-end bonus to compensate for their loss of purchasing power.

The government, for its part, after first suggesting a year-end bonus was a possibility now seems to be backtracking. In separate statements, Labor Minister Jorge Triaca and Finance Minister Alfonso Prat-Gay said that the financial aid their administration will provide will be destined to the most vulnerable sectors: welfare recipients, retirees and workers who receive low salaries.

“The reality is very complex, with a 32 percent poverty rate that unsettles the government and society as a whole. We are still analyzing [what to do] with other ministries because there’s an intent to help out those who need it the most,” said Triaca when consulted about the bonus. However, he didn’t rule out the possibility of meeting another of the demands: exempting them from paying the income tax on the aguinaldo, the additional half salary workers receive in June and December.

The government is analyzing whether some workers should be exempted from paying the tax, Triaca said. Reports claim preliminary plans are to exempt workers who pay the tax and earn less than AR$50,000. Ever since February, the income tax floor applies to single people and households with two kids who earn a gross salary of AR$24,000 and AR$30,000, respectively.

Photo via La Nacion.
Photo via La Nacion.

This exemption does not seem to be sufficient for the workers’ representatives who, in different statements to the press, made clear they are ready to launch a strike if hteir demands are not met. In an interview with Radio Continental, one of the three members of the CGT triumvirate, Juan Carlos Schmid, warned that “if the government’s offer is not reasonable, next week we will resort to a 24-hour strike.” In regards to the rumors about the Macri administration considering to give a AR$750 bonus to retirees and state employees, Schmidt dismissed the number as ludicrously low.

“The government needs to make a very interesting, very significant offer so we don’t take action,” added CGT administrative secretary, Omar Plaini, in another interview.

Representatives from the Macri administration met with CGT members on September 29 at the Labor Ministry to listen to their demands. After the meeting, the government officials committed to analyze different alternatives — the bonus among them — and requested 10 days to come up with a proposal. In return the CGT put on hold the general strike it had previously announced it would carry out in October, although it hadn’t specified the date.

As the deadline looms large, and considering the officials’ statements, CGT leaders emphasized their threat of a strike continues, although a date has yet to be set. So far, there doesn’t seem to be much optimism.