Speaking at a protest in the Plaza de Mayo in downtown Buenos Aires, CGT umbrella union leader Juan Carlos Schmid announced the union’s intention of calling for a second general strike in the Mauricio Macri administration. The only speaker at the event, Schmid closed a day of protests by saying the union’s Federal Central Committee (CCF) will convene on September 25 to “decide a fight plan that includes a general strike,” as well as “all other measures necessary to defend the nation and the workers’ interests.”
Schmid also addressed recent criticism from government representatives — mainly Labor Minister Jorge Triaca, who this morning said that the march was highly “unnecessary, opportunistic,” and that it “smelled of politics,” hinting that the unions are currently siding with their political opponents.
“We recently held an election [in reference to the August 13 primaries], but this segment of the population represents wealth creation in this country and for us, voting is not enough. We are not here to support any candidacy and we don’t partake in any conspiracy. All we want is dignifying jobs and fair salaries. That’s our main demand.”
A member of the so-called “triumvirate” leading the largest union in the country, Schmid offered his list of demands:
- A defense of jobs
- Free labor representation
- Rejection of social security reform
- Rejection of repressive politics
- An emergency increase in pensions
- No more interventions in unions
- Social and food emergency for the most vulnerable sectors
- Rejection of labor reform
This last bullet point is particularly relevant for unions. Even though the government hasn’t outlined a concrete plan, its representatives have shown their intention to move forwards with this initiative after October’s midterm elections.
“Both business and union leaders have to analyze this process with the maturity that this decision requires,” said Triaca when asked about these plans a month ago. Union leaders consider that an eventual reform would undermine workers’ rights — and consequently their extremely powerful organizations — benefiting business leaders at the same time.
Schmid then went on to use a biblical reference to criticize the government, arguing that rather than “multiplying bread and fish, they multiplied poverty.”
“Politics, not campaign promises, will get the country out of this crisis,” he said. In contrast, Triaca argued this morning that the slogans of the CGT march do not match the realities of the labor market, which is “showing a recovery.”
The Labor minister stressed that the addition of 180,000 jobs to the economy since last July — according to data from the Sistema Integrado Previsional Argentino — was a sign of improvement under the new administration. But according to INDEC’s report on the first trimester of 2017, the unemployment rate stands at 9.2 percent.
Nearly an hour before the speech began, a faction of the Construction Workers Union (UOCRA) clashed with their Trucker counterparts (Camioneros) over the places where each one would listen to the speech. The conflict began when the former tried to take the spot right in front of the stage, where the Truckers were. They managed to push them away, to which the UOCRA members then began throwing bottles, sticks and stones to the place they had failed to claim, but things didn’t further escalate.
Should the CGT leaders move on with their initiative, they will conduct the second general strike since Macri took office. The last one took place on April 6 this year, in disagreement with the government’s economic policies. Apparently, they don’t think things changed much during these past months.