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Shady Chinese Space Station Workers Strike

By | [email protected] | February 19, 2015 7:20pm


Cristina can’t even catch a break on her birthday.

First, she spent her birthday-eve with half a million people calling for justice for prosecutor Alberto Nisman.

On her 62th birthday (you say how does she pull it off, I won’t get into it), she still has all the march repercussions and even something unrelated but upsets something that Cristina cherishes: the bilateral relations with China.

Today, the construction workers building the Chinese aerospace station in Bajada del Agrio,  Neuquén went on strike for an indeterminate period of time, asking for better working conditions.

Worker’s spokesperson Victoria Espinoza told a local radio that right now, “there are 100 employees doing what is usually called a fallen arms strike, where they go to the workplace but don’t perform the tasks they’re supposed to”. The claims aim at the honoring of the collective bargaining contract signed before the start of the construction. Principal clauses that allegedly are not being upheld are: Three workdays and a one rest, full holiday payment, personnel re-categorization and the hiring of more local population, as most  are supposedly-from Paraguay, Bolivia and northern Argentina.

But the requests don’t end up there. Espinoza told LU5 the hygienic, clothing and food related situation also need to be upgraded: “They haven’t had working shoes replacement for four months. Each section has two bathrooms for 60 to 80 people without water, and two dinning rooms that can hold 25 to 30 people. They’re 250”.

Aside from this situation, a lot of things regarding the space station have been pointed out as rightfully concerning. The deal, signed by the Chinese state agency, the CONAE (National commission of space activities) and the Neuquén province in two separate agreements, determined gave the green light to the Chinese to build a space base in Argentine soil. With a 35 meter diameter antenna, the project aims to “Support activities such as interplanetary exploration, astronomic observation and to follow and control orbiting satellites, and data acquisition”,  the agreement says.

After that, the fine print kicks in, According to Chequeado:

-The government agreed to lease the soil for 50 years with tax exemption to the Chinese, in exchange for the CONAE to access to the antenna for 10% of the time each year.
-Chinese employees working in Argentine soil will be ruled by their home-country’s law.
-The Chinese government “will not hold Argentina to any obligation generated by claims of any nature”.

Criticism from the opposition didn’t take long to crop up. Most of them alleged secret clauses that would allow the Chinese to use the base with military purposes.

To be fair, there were also supporting voices, such as the Asian-Pacific observatory coordinator Gustavo Giraldo, who claimed the base won’t have any military use: “Several members are from the military, but this also happens in other organisms in the world linked with space research”.

Meanwhile, the workers continue with their strike. This doesn’t seem like a major inconvenience towards the base being built, but it can certainly bring a headache to Cristina if the work doesn’t progress in the future.

Chinese president Xi Jinping sent the Argentine head of state a congratulation letter for her birthday today, saying the day had triple happiness. Why? CFK’s birthday, the commemorative day of Chinese-Argentine relations beginning and the Chinese new year. If we count the strike as a loss , she’s still up 3-1, but she came really close from a clean sheet Chinese bilateral relationship wise speaking.