Protest against the layoffs. Photo via minutouno.com

A special Lower House committee in charge of supervising labor legislation today green-lit a bill which, if passed by Congress, would see public sector workers who were laid off from March until now re-hired and prevent the government and private companies from laying off more employees until December 31, 2017.

The law would declare a “national employment emergency” beginning from March 1, 2016 until December 31, 2017, meaning public and private sector layoffs would be forbidden during this period. In addition, job contracts set to end during this period would be automatically renewed. “Layoffs in the public and private sector that do not have fair cause for dismissal  are hereby forbidden,” the bill reads. It goes on to clarify that people who were laid off would have the option between getting their jobs back or receiving a more generous severance package.

The measure was put forward by deputies from every main opposition party — including the Victory Front (FpV), Renewal Front (FR), Justicialist caucus (PJ) and Socialist Party (PS) — and looks to tackle the massive public sector layoffs that have plagued both the public and private sectors ever since President Mauricio Macri assumed office. Cambiemos deputies on the committee  labeled the bill “unconstitutional” and predictably voted against it.

Now that the bill has been approved by the Lower House’s labor committee, it will have to be approved by the Lower House’s budget committee. This will be its first big challenge since Cambiemos enjoys a majority there and could kill the bill before it even gets the chance to make it to the Lower House floor (the next step if the budget committee approves it).

Shortly after the bill was approved by the labor committee, various Cambiemos politicians spoke out against it. In a press conference today, Labor Minister Jorge Triaca said “this [initiative] doesn’t help create new jobs.”

“We have to propose better alternatives to improve employment. The government is doing everything possible to keep employment rates and create new jobs,” said the minister, who went on to announce a bill proposal that would make it easier for young people to obtain their first jobs.

Macri’s government has led a crusade against ñoquis, a colloquial term used to describe ineffective and actively unproductive public service workers. The current administration claims that the former Kirchner administration filled the public sector with thousands of these so-called ñoquis because of their political allegiance to the Kirchners, leaving the new government no other option besides laying off workers by the thousands because 1. it doesn’t have the funds to pay them and 2. these workers don’t actually do anything deserving a salary. Massive layoffs have resulted in massive protests by workers who argue they are not, in fact, ñoquis, but real workers in real need of their now long-gone salaries.

According to Infobae, 120,000 people from both the public and private sector have been laid off since the government took office on December 10 last year. Predictably, this has led to, let’s call them “disagreements” with unions, which have been active in showing their discontent with these measures. In fact, the five main worker unions have announced a massive march for April 29 in protest of the layoffs.