The fragile truce between the CGT umbrella union and the government finally broke yesterday, after the union’s triumvirate announced that the first general strike under the Macri administration will take place on April 6. The strike will be 24 hours long and won’t include a march that makes their demands visible on the streets, like the one from earlier this month. The Macri administration believes the CGT’s decision is intent on “destabilizing” the government and that the CGT doesn’t want to work to solve the problems workers are facing.
“We were prudent and helped to keep social peace. Until now. That’s it,” said CGT leader Carlos Acuña when confirming the strike’s date.
The leading trio was under heavy pressure to set a date, since it failed to do so in the massive march that took place on March 7. The closing speeches they gave at the end of the march were met with immediate criticism — which descended into violence — from certain factions from unions who shared their demands but wanted more drastic action to get the Macri administration to meet with them.
The second most important umbrella union in the country, the CTA, doubled down on the pressure during the subsequent days by setting their own strike for March 30. Its leaders, Hugo Yasky and Pablo Micheli, less prone to diplomacy, confirmed the union will also join April’s strike.
This will be the strongest show of discontent the Macri administration will have to face since taking office, as the general strike is the unions’ ace of spades when it comes to protests. Besides, the CGT already knows it will have the support of the transportation union, a key factor to carry out the strike effectively. Without their workers on the street, not only union members who adhere to the strike will stay at home, but the large majority of those who don’t have private transit will find it practically impossible to reach their workplaces, effectively forcibly bringing the country to a halt. And that’s without taking its symbolic meaning into account.
According to the triumvirate, the strike will be a way to protest the Macri administration’s economic policies and its failure to honor the anti-layoff agreement they reached with government representatives and business leaders last year.
Neither the government nor the CGT see a way to stop the strike. The only thing that could get them to, the union leaders say, would be a presidential decree assuring there won’t be any more layoffs or suspensions. Representatives from the private and public sector have already said they can’t make that promise.
Taking the impossibility to stop the strike into account, La Nación reported that the government will try to mitigate its impact by reaching agreements with small productive sectors, rather than the entire CGT.
“I hope this will help the government rethink and really listen to the country’s most vulnerable sectors. They are the ones who have been suffering the effects of the crisis. Business leaders haven’t suffered them for a single day,” triumvirate member Héctor Daer.
In contrast, Macri administration representatives argued that the strike has no other intention than to “destabilize the government” and that union leaders don’t really want to “sit down with them and business leaders to work on solving the problems the workers are facing.” In an interview with Radio la Red, Labor Minister Jorge Triaca said that “from the former President [Cristina Fernández de Kirchner] down, there are several who have a destabilizing vocation.”
As is the norm in Argentine politics: one event, two completely opposed interpretations.