On January 10, in Buenos Aires, thousands of workers as well as members of different trade unions, social organizations and small and medium scale enterprises marched with torches and candles from the July 9 Avenue to the Argentine National Congress to protest the increase in the tariffs of public services and to denounce the brutal austerity measures of the government of Mauricio Macri.
“Let’s make it clear: we will not give up or raise a white flag and we will continue to mobilize on streets until we defeat the policy of hunger and adjustment. We say no to the Labor Reform. We say no to the Pension Reform. We say no to the price hike. Enough of abuses against the Argentine people” reads the joint statement released by the Trade Union Front for the National Model, Argentine Workers’ Central Union (CTA), 21F Movement and Argentine Workers’ Central Union-Autonomous (CTA-A).
The protest was called by the Trade Union Front for the National Model, an umbrella organization comprising different trade unions of Argentina. The organization has also called for similar torch marches every Thursday for the next four weeks.
The march will continue in Santa Fe and Rosario on January 17, Mar de Plata on January 24, Bariloche on January 31 and Mendoza and Cordoba on February 2.
On December 27, 2018, to fulfill the demand made by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to reduce the fiscal deficit, the Cambiemos government announced new increases in the tariffs of transportation, electricity, water and residential gas for the year 2019. These increases will directly hit the pockets of working and lower income classes.
A 40% increase in tariff rates in the transportation sector will be implemented from January 12 in Buenos Aires. The new electricity rates, with an increase of 34%, will apply nationwide from February 1 while the residential gas rates will see a nationwide of 35% increase in April. A 38% increase in water bills will be effective in March and will affect 800,000 households in the province of Buenos Aires.
“The new rates are unsustainable for workers. On top of it, every month, our salary is increasingly insufficient [to shop] in the supermarket, while the government lowers tax on luxury cars and gives an increase to ministers who earn more than 200 thousand pesos per month, [it is] a real insult,” said Agustina Chaves, a metro worker.
As per the figures stated by the Citizen’s Unity Party, a coalition of Argentine left-wing organizations, the tariffs of electricity have increased by 3624%, natural gas by 2401%, water by 1025%, road tolls by 1118%, inter-municipal train tickets by 601%, train tickets by 500%, metro tickets by 400% and buses by 494%, since 2016.
In March, Macri will start the regular sessions of the National Congress and try again to concretize the labor reform that the government has not been able to push through in the last two years. The newspaper La Nación said that the reform that the government is promoting consists of a reduction in working hours from 8 to 6 (or 4 hours in industries in crisis), promotion of a work stoppage fund for temporary jobs to substitute compensation and enabling more agreements for productivity, among other changes.