BUENOS AIRES – Hundreds of Argentine state employees marched Thursday in downtown Buenos Aires as part of a nationwide strike – the seventh this year – to protest public-sector layoffs and press demands for higher salaries.
Organized by the main public-sector union, the Association of State Workers, or ATE, and the CTA trade-union federation, the strike affected the main government agencies and brought the capital’s downtown to a standstill for much of Thursday morning.
ATE Secretary-General Hugo Godoy, one of the leaders of the march down the emblematic Avenida de Mayo in Buenos Aires, told EFE that there was overwhelming adherence to the strike nationwide.
Godoy said the government employees were carrying out their seventh strike of 2016 to protest a large number of layoffs in the public sector, which has been hard-hit by President Mauricio Macri’s economic policies, and their loss of purchasing power.
Ricardo Peidro, the CTA’s deputy secretary-general, said it was regrettable that efforts were being made in both the public and private sectors to “maximize profits” at the expense of employees’ salaries and working conditions.
The lack of an official response to their demands leaves workers no choice but to take to the streets, he added.
Labor leaders say some 150,000 public-sector jobs have been lost since the start of 2016 and are demanding permanent contracts for some 90,000 federal government employees and some 600,000 public-sector workers in provinces and municipalities.
Macri’s administration, however, says his predecessor, Cristina Fernandez, carried out an eleventh-hour expansion of public-sector payrolls to boost employment figures.
It maintains that Argentina’s public sector is plagued by inefficiencies and in urgent need of a profound restructuring and modernization.
The labor unions also say workers’ purchasing power has been eroded by high inflation – projected to end the year at around 40% – and are demanding salary renegotiations.
The Industrial Oilseed Complex Workers Federation and the Press Union of Buenos Aires, as well as other labor organizations, joined the public-sector employees for Thursday’s march in the Argentine capital.