Argentina: A country turned upside down

This International Workers’ Day has been very different, due to the critical juncture faced by the Argentine people, and in particular food industry workers.

Héctor Morcillo*

9 | 5 | 2024

Photo: Leandro Godoy

The rightwing government of Javier Milei is intent on imposing a brutal neoliberal model characterized by economic concentration and harsh austerity measures that affect the poorest and most disadvantage sectors of the population.

In this scenario, on April 30 Congress passed the so-called Bases Law, which among other things seeks to sell off the nation’s assets, giving free rein to big capital, multinational corporations, and speculative financial sectors to pillage the wealth that rightly belongs to the Argentine people and seizing it for themselves.

This law strengthens monopolies by completely liberating the market, to the absolute detriment of the wider population.

It is a law that further deepens a brutal fiscal adjustment that hits retired citizens and the social security system the most.

It is announced with great fanfare that the law will achieve a fiscal surplus at the cost of stripping retirees and pensioners of 35 percent of their income.

The law also eliminates the possibility of retiring based on the recognition of the social security contributions made by workers, calculating pensions instead according to arbitrary criteria applied by the government, so that now workers will not be able to foresee how much they will retire on.

Women pensioners are the worst hit

This affects women in particular.

Nine out of ten women do not have enough social security contributions to be eligible to access the retirement system, and with this law that possibility vanishes completely.

The labor reform in turn favors big capital and further aggravates the loss of workers’ rights, leaving the doors wide open for outsourcing and casualization of labor relations and creating the figure of “monotributo” or single-tax contributors for companies with up to five workers, a scheme that denies workers any kind of rights, as it treats those in a dependent labor relationship as self-employed workers.

This law turns Argentina upside down, as its guiding principle is the elimination of the idea of social justice, and it set the country on a path toward greater concentration of capital in the hands of the wealthiest.

It is against this backdrop that our Federation, at its recently held congress, decided with all its affiliates to support the action plan for labor struggle designed by the CGT (Argentina’s General Confederation of Labor) along with the rest of the labor movement.

Protest is the only answer

We participated actively in the May Day demonstration, convinced that the only way to stop this is to take to the streets, organized and peacefully but firmly protesting, as we did on April 23 when we marched in defense of a free, unrestricted, and public education.

We had a significant presence in the march convened by the CGT in Buenos Aires, with the participation of our local affiliates and some representatives from other parts of the country. The rest of us marched in other provinces of the Republic.

In Córdoba, we organized a massive caravan that ended with a demonstration at Patio Olmos, where we converged with other movements and social organizations representing the people.

This paves the way for our struggle, which continues now with the call to a great National Strike on May 9, reflecting the labor movement’s political decision to stand up against the austerity measures.

A caste untouched

We cannot allow this adjustment to affect, not the “caste” or ruling class, as president Milei promised and proclaimed, but pensioners, workers, and the poorest.

The caste remains untouched—the financial caste, the monopolistic caste, the caste that sets prices and which has been given total freedom to continue increasing the cost of everything, so that every day workers’ wages lose more and more purchasing power.

This caste has been given free rein to deny national employee-workers negotiations.

This is what we are standing up against with our action plan.

This past May 1, International Workers’ Day, was not a day of celebration. It was a day of struggle for the entire labor movement.

Our organization has not given up hope and we believe that the construction of a world with social justice and inclusion for all is still possible.

*General Secretary of the Federation of Food Industry Workers (FTIA) and Vice-President of the IUF.