The number and intensity of protests, demonstrations, and strikes have increased over the past year in Argentina, and nearly half of these conflicts were incited by state and private sector layoffs, wage and hiring freezes, as well as the country’s overall economic crisis.
The Autonomous Observatory of Social Law in Buenos Aires (CTA) released a new study this month showing that Argentina’s economic and employment crisis, amidst a 30 percent inflation rate, is to blame for the increase of worker strikes and labor protests. The report also found that protest intensity has gone up as labor demonstrators face police repression and abuse.
The authors say that between June 2017 and June 2018 there were 462 registered labor conflicts — that’s a 29 percent jump in labor demonstrations and strikes from last year. Of the 462 demonstrations and stoppages, 254 were in the public sector, 126 were in the private sector, and 59 were joint measures. There were 23 informal worker demonstrations over the past year. Researchers say that the fewer number of private sector protests indicates the level of the sectors’ contraction.
Forty-nine percent of the conflicts were in protest to layoffs.
State workers hardest hit were the Telam News Agency, Trenes Argentinos and the Santiago River Shipyard. In the private sector, media, transport, and industrial workers were among the hardest hit for closures.
The study also reveals the number of agreements and collective agreements approved by the Ministry of Labor in the first half of 2018 plummeted 69 percent compared to the same period last year. Collective bargaining ability dropped by 79 percent since 2015, say CTA scientists.
The Mauricio Macri administration has implemented a slew of subsidy cuts and promised to decrease the number of federal jobs by 25 percent last January. Last Friday, people protested en masse in Buenos Aires over the recently announced slashing of 10 federal ministries.
To measure the ‘intensity’ of the labor conflicts, CTA researchers used "the number of reprisals (both employers and security forces) workers' bodies were exposed to in order to have demands met."
For example just last month Argentine police brutally repressed a Rio Santiago shipyard workers’ protests in La Plata, Argentina with rubber-coated bullets and tear gas to disperse the approximately 3,000 demonstrators demanding that collective bargaining meetings continue. At least 15 demonstrators were injured, and five were detained.
The study found that real salaries have decreased by 8.5 percent over the past year.
Experts expect that Argentina will hit a recession in the coming months as the administration scrambles to stabilize its economy by selling off millions of dollars in pesos and hiking interest rates to 60 percent which has only backfired, devaluing the peso to 40 to the dollar.