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News > Latin America

Argentine State Airline Strikes Against Gov't Austerity, Layoffs

  • Passengers at the Buenos Aires airport during the 24-hour strike called by Argentina's state-owned airline Aerolineas Argentinas days before G-20 summit in the city. November 26, 2018

    Passengers at the Buenos Aires airport during the 24-hour strike called by Argentina's state-owned airline Aerolineas Argentinas days before G-20 summit in the city. November 26, 2018 | Photo: Reuters

Published 26 November 2018

Unions say President Macri is 'creating conflict' to privatize the 67-year-old state Aerolineas Argentinas, forcing an all-around transport to strike this week.

Aerolineas Argentinas (AA) is canceling all flights on Monday after its United Airlines Union (UALU) declared a strike against the government's layoff of 376 of its employees saying that the Mauricio Macri administration wants to “create conflict” between the airline and unions in order to eventually privatize the state-run institution.

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The UALU which includes AA pilots, staff and technicians launched a 24-hour strike that began on Monday at 12:00 a.m. local time accusing the government of attempting to sell off the state-run airline.

Some 371 flights were canceled affecting an estimated 40,000 flyers during the Nov. 26 standoff.

Argentina’s Minister of Transportation Guillermo Dietrich is saying the airline could suffer "a bailout," and is accusing the union of having a "pathetic attitude." The UALU said in a Nov. 23 statement, the same day as the mass layoff, that the Macri administration is “demonizing workers,” and that Dietrich is leading the public to believe that the administration tried to dialogue with the union, which the union says “never happened.”

The UALU says the government has “escalated” the situation resulting in the day-long standoff. In a local radio interview, unions spokesperson Marcelo Uhrich said: "It was not necessary that we have gotten to this point."

Uhrich later told reporters “unions have always been prudent. We are in a trap where (the government) has frozen our salary for five months. ... What more do they want, that we go to work for free?" asked Uhrich in frustration.

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In its statement, the UALU says that the government is sanctioning workers for holding an assembly on Nov. 8 after President Macri threatened to privatize the airline that began flying in 1950. The union adds that the state airline is not implementing a negotiated trigger clause that would increase worker wages according to national inflation that has averaged 40 percent over the past several months. The UALU says that current pay doesn’t allow airline workers to “pay for their daily purchases.”

Deitrich said on Monday that the airline is functioning well and on time, and that, “employees every day make the airline work well. The minister then blamed union leaders for their “pathetic attitudes” for closing down the airline for the day. “Unfortunately, union delegates with pathetic attitudes come and tell (employees) that they can not work anymore.”

Starting Tuesday morning, the nation’s buses, subways and all public transport will halt between 4:00 a.m. and 7:00 a.m. in protest to the upcoming G-20 summit to be held Nov. 30- Dec. 2 in Buenos Aires. The strike is being organized by the Argentine Confederation of Transport Workers and will continue all week, say unions.

State employees are protesting the international summit, state austerity and the US$56.3 billion International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan that Macri recently negotiated while average citizens are suffering from the country's economic recession and increased poverty. 

The strike also comes as the first protests against the G20 have already begun in the capital Monday in which protesters are demanding government aid and benefits that are being downsized as a result of the IMF-mandated austerity in return for loans.

At the same time, multiple workers unions were also protesting Monday over the suspected police killings of two members of the General Confederation of Workers of the Popular Economy (CTEP) 

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