Photo via Clarin

The general strike called on by the CGT umbrella union has come and gone. Now its protagonists have started the to fight for what they really care about — the battle for winning public perception. Even though the key players on both sides of the conflict coincided on the fact that the strike was “effective” — it would have been quite difficult for the government to challenge that, considering that the streets were practically empty yesterday — their analysis on the reasons for this conclusion differed.

Government representatives argued that most people didn’t support the strike, but couldn’t get to their workplaces because there was no public transportation. Union leaders, in contrast, assured that most workers indeed joined the measure — the leaders of the CTA union even said that 90 percent of the workforce did — and that this sends a message to the government to “rectify its economic and social policies.”

Both sectors also clashed about the strike’s true meaning: in different statements to the media, members of the CGT union group argued that the decision was a way of making the government notice that its policies are harming the working class and that they need to change course. Government officials assured the public that the strike actually has a political intention behind it, as it didn’t have a specific demand, and consequently was destined to “destabilize” the Macri administration.

These contrasting stances could be clearly seen when CGT leader Héctor Daer and Labor Minister Jorge Triaca went to the same TV show yesterday night. They warmly greeted each other, but exposed their points of views separately, without engaging in dialogue.

Daer went first. He highlighted the need for “both the government and business leaders to review each and every one of the decisions that have caused thousands of layoffs during January and February.”

“We had to strike to make it visible that this is a collective demand, not only from a sector. We are respectful of the President and his mandate, but we reiterate [the fact] that there are things happening as a result of policies that have not gone down the way they expected, such as the 50,000 jobs that were lost in the industrial sector, consequence of determined decisions from the government,” he said.

Daer went on to make reference to the government’s argument about the strike being “destabilizing,” clarifying that “democracy is not at stake here.”

“There are no conspiracies to stage a coup nor destabilize. Most sectors within the unions defend democracy and we have shown it,” he said.

Triaca took the microphone after. He reiterated his stance about the strike being “unnecessary” and highlighted that all what he considers are victories from the government were achieved when after the other political sectors agreed to sit down and dialogue with them.

“We managed to repay the debt the State had with retirees, increase the Universal Child Allowance (AUH), solve the issue with the income tax, and more. All that we achieved talking with unions, using a methodology we deem correct,” he began.

Consulted about the strike’s demands, Triaca insisted on his belief that it was a “political strike.” “They have changed their reasons several times. We managed to significantly lower inflation rates, production levels are going up again, we perceive a growth in employment, and just now a strike is called, during an election year. There’s something other than the defense of workers’ interests here,” Triaca said.

However, by the end of the show, both agreed on the need to put the sectors’ differences aside and work together to tackle the people’s needs. However, neither of them could avoid keeping a slightly tense tone.

“We have to build trust and finish with mob-like conducts from business and union leaders, like Macri said this week. But we have to go back to negotiating at a table and not get up and leave upon the first problem. It’s an attitude we haven’t learned yet,” Triaca said.

As for Daer, he said: We are all willing to talk, but they have to be capable of looking at what’s happening to us in a clear and objective manner. Commitments have to be honored.”

The strike has sent its message out. It will now be up to both parties to decide whether to double down and deepen the conflict, or take it as a standpoint to start working towards agreements.