An estimated 350,000 people gathered on the streets of Buenos Aires Friday in a march and demonstration organized by the four major trade union federations to denounce President Mauricio Macri’s brutal austerity policies, demand that he declare a “job emergency,” and not veto a bill that has already passed the Senate that would halt all firings and force companies to double severance payments of those they do fire.
Former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner praised the “marvelous” demonstration, warning that “it would be good if those who mistreated our Fatherland … realized once and for all that, while our people are peaceful and calm, they are not stupid. They just want to be allowed to work in peace…. Part of our Fatherland once again took to the streets of Buenos Aires because [people] aren’t afraid, and because, above all, they want a future.”
Argentina’s labor movement, which for years has been divided into squabbling factions, is now coming together in opposition to the policies that have already led to 140,000 firings in four months. The powerful teamsters, metalworkers, construction and state-sector unions led the march, joined by other citizens, social groups and political parties. The message delivered by the heads of the two factions of the General Confederation of Labor (CGT) and the heads of the two factions of the Argentine Labor Confederation (CTA) was that there would be intensified social conflict and a national strike unless Macri changes his economic policies, and doesn’t attempt to veto the job emergency bill.
Macri and his chief of staff Marcos Peña tried to do damage control, claiming that government and workers share the “same concerns and agenda.” But in an April 29 press conference, Peña called the job emergency bill “counterproductive,” as “excessive protection of employment” would only force 40% of workers into the informal economy. A very defensive Macri is making appearances in several cities around the country vowing to create hundreds of thousands of jobs through public works projects.