Argentina: subway workers open turnstiles

An independent union of Argentine transit workers, the Union Association of Subte and Premetro Workers (AGTSyP), held job actions on Sept. 9 and 10 in the Buenos Aires transit system in a push to win official recognition. In the Sept. 9 action the workers opened the turnstiles for two hours, letting commuters ride for free. On the second day, they shut much of the system down for two hours, affecting about 160,000 riders, according to Metrovías, S.A., the company that has managed the capital’s subway and commuter lines since they were privatized in 1994. A unionist jumped on the tracks at the Pueyrredón station to block the trains, while a group of workers blocked the C Line tracks at the Avenida de Mayo station.

The workers are currently represented by the Automatic Tramways Union (UTA), an affiliate of the General Confederation of Workers (CGT), which is allied with the governing Justicialist Party (PJ, Peronist). But the new union says it already has the support of 1,600 of the system’s 2,600 workers and should be recognized by the government. Members of the new union said they were not impressed by the UTA’s claim that it had just won a 21% salary increase. “What good does 10 pesos more or less do me,” asked Roberto Pianelli, a delegate from Line E for the new union, “if I lose it tomorrow in unhealthy working condition because I have a union that for nine years has been signing contracts against the workers?”

The new union planned to carry out similar job actions the week of Sept. 14 if it didn’t win recognition. According to the left-leaning Argentine newspaper Página/12, the tactic of opening turnstiles is popular with commuters but carries “greater legal risks” than a conventional strike. (Página/12, Sept. 10)

From Weekly News Update on the Americas, Sept. 13

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