Argentina: general strike targets Fernández policies

A large part of Argentina's labor movement participated a 24-hour general strike on April 10 to demand increases in wages and pensions and to protest the economic policies of President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. With support from the Automatic Tramways Union (UTA) and three airline workers' unions, the strike shut down surface trains, subways, air service, schools and businesses in many parts of the country. Union leaders said the action was 90% effective, and the Argentine business consulting firm Orlando Ferreres & Asociados S.A. set the losses for the day at almost $1 billion. Government officials and Fernández supporters downplayed the significance of the strike, charging that relatively few workers actively participated and that people stayed home only because transportation was cut off by the UTA and by roadblocks that leftist parties and groups had set up.

The April 10 action was the second major strike against the Fernández government in a year and a half, following nearly a decade of labor support for the president and her late husband, Néstor Kirchner, who was president from 2003 to 2007. Hugo Moyano–the longtime leader of the truck drivers' union who heads the General Confederation of Labor (CGT) dissident faction and was a strong ally of Fernández until 2012–is now spearheading the labor attacks on her government. The current strike was backed by two other labor federations: the section of the left-leaning Federation of Argentine Workers (CTA) headed by Pablo Micheli and the more conservative CGT White and Blue faction, which is led by Tourism, Hotel and Restaurant Workers Union (Uthgra) head Luis Barrionuevo. Also supporting the strike was the Workers' Left Front, an alliance of three Trotskyist parties: the Workers' Party (PO), the Socialist Workers' Party (PTS), and Socialist Left (IS).

The strike reaffirmed the strength of Argentina's labor movement, which represents 8 million workers, nearly half the labor force. At the same time the strike highlighted the movement's divisions: it was strongly opposed by a section of the CTA and by the large CGT faction headed by Antonio Caló. (Wall Street Journal, April 9; InfoBAE, Argentina, April 11; La Jornada, April 11, from correspondent)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, April 13.