An important sector of the union movement will march in protest at the government’s economic policies on February 21, as strongman Hugo Moyano and his allies prepare to bare its teeth against the government of President Mauricio Macri.
As the unions prepare to engage however, the call for industrial action has also laid bare the fractures within the union movement. Two of three leaders of the General Confederation of Labour (CGT) umbrella union grouping have pledged their support. Moyano and his son Pablo, head of the truck drivers’ union (Camioneros) are in the government’s crosshairs. While the Macri administration has been cracking down on corruption within the union movement, backing investigations into high-profile leaders and even arresting several of them, the Moyanos had largely escaped in plain sight.
What once appeared to be a tacit pact between the strongest union leader in the country and the government gave Macri manoeuvring room at a vital time, enabling him to push forward with an ambitious reform package that includes an upcoming labour reform, a move that has already proved to be controversial. However, the relationship between the veteran union leader and the president has deteriorated to the point where Moyano and his son have been charged with money-laundering relating to their management of the Independiente football club. In response, Moyano recently opened up a war of words with the Pink House, declaring “if I’m going to jail, I want to be in the cell next to the president’s father,” an allusion to accusations of corruption surrounding Franco Macri.
In the context of the stand-off between the Moyanos and Macri, the union movement is now in disarray. The fractures in the CGT, headed by a triumvirate composed of Héctor Daer, Juan Carlos Schmid, and Carlos Acuña, became all the more evident after Daer said he wouldn’t participate in Moyano’s march, effectively detonating any possibility of the union movement showing a united front against the government’s policies. Daer represents the so-called “gordos” or fat men, the leaders of several large unions close to the government.
“We cannot accept capricious attitudes looking to own the collective will of the CGT,” Daer said in an interview with El Cronista, “our position is clear, we won’t put the CGT at the service of no individual union or person.”
Groups like the Buenos Aires province Peronists (PJ), the Kirchneristas (La Cámpora), and left-leaning social movements including CTEP, CCC, and Barrios de Pie have all agreed to march alongside Camioneros, guaranteeing it will be a multitudinous protest that promises to paralyze Buenos Aires.
“This administration is looking to keep people quiet by extorting them, and its succeeding with some union leaders, but they won’t with us,” Moyano said in an televised interview on Crónica. “For four months they’ve been trying to get me to support the Labour Reform […] but before supporting a monstrosity like that, I rather end up in the joint or killed,” Moyano added.
Originally, the march had been called for February 22, but organisers this week re-arranged the event after learning it coincided with the sixth anniversary of the Once train crash tragedy. Families of those killed in the crash had requested the protest be postponed for a later date. While Moyano intended to march on the same day, he finally folded to the pressure, pushing the date back one day.
In related news, the government said this week it will send three bills to Congress to replace the wide-ranging socalled “Mega-decree” package that Macri signed in early January. The anti-bureaucracy, import-friendly decree package this week passed the Legislative Processes Committee, composed of both senators and lawmakers, 16 to 8. However, the government has been forced to alter its strategy given the unity of opposition Congressional blocs against the package.