Unlike most Argentine workers, lawmakers were one of the few whose salary increases beat inflation: they got a 47 percent increase in the month of October, compared to January. Yes, a 47 percent increase in 10 months at a time when the government is saying Argentine workers should be satisfied with the 30-35 percent raises most sectors agreed to over 12 months. Ahhh, if only other workers had the power to set their own salaries.
Over the weekend, lawmakers took markedly different approaches to the news. Victory Front (FpV) lawmaker Héctor Recalde said he assumed that those who complained were going to “donate the money to the Garrahan Hospital,” but conceded that he was going to analyze whether the increase was appropriate. On the other hand, Leftist Workers’ Front (FIT) lawmaker Néstor Pitrola called the increase “absolutely obscene” and even assured that, in some cases, compensation for members of Congress soared by as much as 63.3 percent.
This month, lawmakers earned in average a net salary of AR$85,000, a 47 percent increase compared to January this year. But that’s not it. Taking into account the different bonus payments they receive, such as for transportation and living expenses the monthly salary can soar to as much as AR$141,000 a month. This is 18.65 times more than the country’s minimum wage of AR$7,560.
Mirá La Nación. Denunciamos el obsceno aumento del 63.6% a Diputados ($147000) cuando la mitad de los argentinos gana menos de $8000 pic.twitter.com/vV5vtU1d8r
— Néstor Pitrola (@nestorpitrola) October 30, 2016
The increases were approved by a joint decision from both houses of Congress, presided by Vice President Gabriela Michetti (Senate) and Emilio Monzó (Lower House). Several representatives, however, only found out about this when they got their respective paychecks (talk about a happy surprise!). One of them was Pitrola, who in an interview with La Nación said the increase is “absolutely unfair.”
When consulted about this same thing, Recalde said the increase must have been due to the fact that transportation expenses hadn’t increased over the past few years: “I’m convinced the increase didn’t have to do with the basic salary, that would be illegal. I believe it has to do with the transportation expenses, which haven’t increased in three years,” assured the leader of the FpV caucus in the Lower House.
This and other extras, however, are key because they are at the center of the controversy since legislative employees who are not lawmakers don’t get them. Earlier this year, the legislative workers’ union settled on a 31.9 percent raise over 12 months.
Workers in the Executive branch also received a 31.9 percent increase and President Mauricio Macri himself earns a gross salary of AR$173,000 per month.