All subway lines are operating normally today, following the release of all 16 union members who were detained yesterday as a result of clashes with police forces. The union members, however, will continue to implement measures of force to give visibility to their demands to get their legal status reinstated and be able to negotiate higher wages. From 10 AM until noon, they will “release” the stations’ turnstiles, letting the passengers use the service for free.
The conflict between subway employees and the City of Buenos Aires government has been present in the public agenda for the last month, as workers have been implementing rotational strikes and measures like today’s. But it escalated yesterday as a result of the clashes, which led union workers to completely paralyze the service during the rest of the day.
The ability to sit down at the negotiation table is at the core of the conflict between the camps, as a Supreme Court ruling from March determined to remove the legal status of the subway unions, and the inclusion of its workers in the negotiations conducted by the Union de Tranviarios Automotor (UTA), which groups representatives from other transportation means such as long-haul and urban buses.
Among the detainees was Néstor Segovia, one of the most high-profile subway union members. After being released yesterday night, Segovia told press that the City government had staged a pantomime to place the blame of the conflict on the unions, and that he holds City Mayor Horacio Rodríguez Larreta “responsible for anything that might happen on the subway.” “We want to sit down and discuss wages in order to defend the workers’ purchasing power,” he added.
However, Mayor Larreta defended the police’s actions and assured that his administration “will continue to act in this way.” Larreta argued that “the strike was not legal because the union is not legal,” and that “one thing is to strike, and a whole different one is interrupting the service.” “Not only did they not go to work, but they also jumped on the tracks to prevent those who did from doing so,” he added.
Metrovías, the company providing the service, announced it suspended 150 workers who partook in the protests. 114 of them are union members who, according to Argentine Labor Law, can’t be removed from their jobs unless a court decides to strip them from what could be called “union immunity.” However, in this case the workers don’t belong to a legal union – at the eyes of the judiciary, at least – and their unstable situation could lead them to lose their jobs, something that would surely ensue more conflicts.
We are definitely set to see a new episode of this conflict soon.