Argentina Labor Unions Protest Job Losses, Macri Policies

Argentina’s main labor unions took to the streets of the capital on Tuesday demanding more jobs and protesting center-right President Mauricio Macri’s economic policies.

Tens of thousands of workers gathered in the historic Plaza de Mayo criticizing Macri, who is trying to lower labor costs to attract investment and jump-start an economy that emerged from recession in the second half of last year.

“If some retrograde [in the government] thinks that lowering wages, precarious living conditions and destroying trade unions is going to line up investments … we say that is very wrong,” said Juan Carlos Schmid, a leader of Argentina’s largest umbrella union, the CGT.

Standing on a podium at the protest, he said the CGT would meet in late September to discuss a potential strike.

Macri told Reuters in an interview this month his government was negotiating labor agreements sector by sector rather than trying to pass a comprehensive labor reform like the one approved in neighboring Brazil.

Unions fear more drastic changes could be coming after mid-term legislative elections in October, however, especially after a primary vote on Aug. 13 pointed to strong support for Macri’s coalition.

Macri is trying to open Argentina’s long protected economy and focus on competitive industries like oil and agriculture, but has seen some manufacturing jobs lost in the meantime.

The most recent employment data showed the jobless rate rose to 9.2 percent in the first quarter of the year from 7.6 percent in the fourth quarter of last year.

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