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October 24, 2014
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Air traffic likely to grind to a halt Thursday

Anti-government CGT leader Hugo Moyano (left) and Luis Barrionuevo announced the strike last week.

‘20,000 pesos isn’t enough to live on,’ says union leader, buses remain key question

The country’s air traffic is likely to grind to a halt on Thursday as the Aeronautical Technical Personnel Association (APTA) announced its support for the national strike called by the anti-government factions of the CGT and CTA umbrella unions under the leadership of Hugo Moyano, Luis Barrionuevo and Pablo Micheli.

The adherence of the technical airline workers, which include air-traffic controllers, came as the big question of whether bus drivers would join the strike remained unanswered with some train-workers unions announcing adherence to the work stoppage.

The UTA transport union, which represents drivers and support staff for the buses that move hundreds of thousands of people into and around Buenos Aires City every day, has yet to announce whether it will participate.

An assembly among the union’s members scheduled for today will determine its decision, which will play a huge role in determining whether the strike will paralyze the City. Affiliated with the government-allied CGT, the UTA nonetheless participated in the April 10 national strike that brought the City and its surroundings to a halt.

The country’s technical staff and air traffic controllers working for domestic airlines and the national civil aviation authority (ANAC) will participate in the strike on a nationwide basis, APTA said yesterday. The union participated in the April 10 national strike, disrupting air travel throughout the country. It remains unclear to what extent travel will be disrupted as a result of the strike.

In addition to saying that it agreed with the main themes of the protest — centred around inflation and the income tax exemption ceiling — the APTA also added its sector-specific criticisms, claiming that the government has not met its labour obligations as administrator of the state-owned Aerolíneas Argentinas airline and regulatory aspects of the country’s air traffic control.

Labour action in the air transport sector will not be absolute as the airlines pilots’ association has announced that it will not be joining in on the strike.

Rail unions also divided

In addition, the train machinists’ union known as La Fraternidad also pledged its support for the strike, in contrast to the Unión Ferroviaria. This second union, which represents ticket collectors, rail operators and mechanics, among others , has labelled the strike as “unfortunately timed.”

“20,000 pesos (US$ 2,400) isn’t enough to live on” said Omar Maturano, head of the La Fraternidad train union, to radio La Red yesterday, justifying his union’s participation on the grounds that income tax is gouging earnings for workers.

“We should be earning 30,000 pesos,” he added. Income tax is payable for monthly salaries that are above the 15,000 peso threshold. The minimum wage is 3,600 pesos.

In contrast, Sergio Sasia, leader of the Unión Ferroviaria, favoured the method of dialogue with the government adopted by Antonio Caló, leader of the other wing of the CGT.

“This is not the methodology nor the moment,” he explained, while also speaking of the achievements made by the Kirchnerite government and the “pending matters, like the income tax,” saying he continued to prioritize dialogue.

“We all know of the economic situation that the country is in and the political side of things is being taken advantage of by many,” he added.

Union leaders, including Caló, recently met with Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich to discuss raising the threshold for the payment of income taxes but were unsuccessful.

Also joining the strike will be the teamsters union and the taxi owners’ federation, among others.

In addition, public and private banks will be shut on Thursday as the sector’s union will be participating in labour action that its leadership said was unrelated to the strike called by Moyano.

“We have our own claims as part of an action plan that we initiated inMay,” said Sergio Palazzo, head of the bank workers’ union.

—Herald staff with DyN, Télam

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