In yet another case of backpedaling, the national government confirmed it will give its 130,000 employees a year-end bonus of between AR $2,000 and AR $3,500 yesterday. The agreement establishes four different categories of bonuses, depending on the employee’s pay grade. Government workers with the lowest salaries, will receive AR $3,500. The second and third categories, on their end, will get AR$ 3,300 and AR $3,000, respectively, while the high-ranking employees reached by the bonus will receive the lowest sum.
The bonus won’t reach the managing positions at the different state offices. Ministers and members of other public sectors that have already reached their own settlements — such as university employees, armed forces, teachers — will not receive this extra either.
In a press conference held yesterday, Modernization Minister Andres Ibarra specified that half the bonus will be paid along with December’s salary, while the other half will reach employees in January: “It’s a more than reasonable deal. It’s been segmented to favor those with lowest salaries,” Ibarra told La Nación.
Practically ever since the second semester began, the year-end bonus became unions’ main requirement to avoid a general strike that would paralyze the country. This special kind of strike has a political significance that largely exceeds the event itself, and is the reason behind the government getting all hands on deck to prevent it from happening.
However, the road to getting the bonus has been all but smooth, with the Macri administration not wanting to incur this expense unless absolutely necessary. Let’s recall all the times the government flip-flopped about who would get the extra cash.
At the beginning, all indicators pointed at the government being willing to pony up for all those who received money from the state in any way: “we will make an effort to pay workers,” said Finance Minister Alfonso Prat Gay on September 30.
However, a week later, Labor Minister Jorge Triaca narrowed the reach 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 the goal is to help out those who need it the most.”
Six days later, the government announced it would give a AR $1,000 year-end bonus to families receiving the Universal Child Allowance (AUH) and exempting workers who have a gross salary lower than AR $55,000 from paying income tax on the aguinaldo — the additional half-month salaries workers receive in June and December. According to Labor Minister Jorge Triaca, in charge of the negotiations, the measures would benefit 10 million people.
Although the initiative intends to put an end to rumors of a strike from state employees in December — usually quite chaotic in terms of social and political activity in the country — the battle might not be over. Why? Although the UPCN union took the government’s offer, the other workers’ union, grouped under the more combative ATE, still hasn’t shown any signs of being assuaged by the development.
Those led by Hugo Godoy are advocating for an AR $ 8,000 bonus and tomorrow will participate in a protest march against the Macri administration, taking place infront of the national Congress building. “Unions like ATE dislike everything we do,” said Cabinet Chief Marcos Peña in an interview last Friday.
At the same time, this decision from the national administration puts its provincial counterparts in a tough spot, as they might not have the economic means to follow its lead. Some governors such as Misiones’ Hugo Passalacqua and Córdoba’s Juan Schiaretti have already committed to grant the workers a sum so they can spend the end of the year “a bit more relieved.”
Others such as Buenos Aires Province Governor María Eugenia Vidal said a bonus “is an expense that wasn’t included in the budget and there’s no money to face it.” We’ll see what December has in store for us.