Argentina's Ministry of Agroindustry confirmed Friday it fired 565 workers across the country, prompting protests and clashes with state security forces.
The decision was announced during a meeting between the State Workers' Association (ATE) and the Ministry's Human Resources Director, Alejandro Caviglia. Massive layoffs have been a constant during the government of president of Mauricio Macri, who has applied a series of austerity measures that have affected Argentina's lower middle and working classes.
The ministry justified the dismissals as an effort to "reach greater efficiency for state resources." During Macri's government, which began in December 2015, the agroindustry ministry has already fired 1,038 workers.
Daniel Catalano, of the ATE, explained "They are firing workers that represent the small producer, who in the provinces have the monumental task of containing the families that sustain the regional economies, eliminating those who enable this economic activity is the first step to allow the great agro-producers can take over the field of our countrymen, we are talking about Indigenous peoples who inherited their and from their great-grandparents and with the previous government learned how to generate living conditions."
After the meeting, ATE members attempted to close a street to protest the measures but were met by state security forces that used pepper spray and force to disperse them.
Human rights groups and other unions joined the ATE and helped them keep the roadblock. Hours later, the agroindustry minister agreed to hold more talks with union representatives Monday prompting the workers to leave.
As laid-off workers left the meeting to begin protesting the decision, Macri was meeting with his cabinet to plan more economic measures to stop the Argentine peso's sustained devaluation and rising inflation that has significantly reduced people's purchasing power.
The new economic measures will be announced Monday.