Argentine unions strike to protest Milei reforms, pressure lawmakers

Oilseed and maritime workers launched an open-ended strike against the labor reforms proposed in the president’s flagship ‘omnibus bill’

Argentina’s oilseed and maritime worker unions kicked off a strike on Monday to protest a labor reform bill backed by President Javier Milei, which lawmakers began debating earlier in the day.

“The labor reform contained in the omnibus bill is not modernization, it’s a huge setback,” read a communiqué from the Argentine Federation of Workers of the Oilseed Industrial Complex and Cotton Ginners.

The strike started just after lawmakers in Argentina’s Lower House began debate sweeping economic reform bills proposed by Milei that call for privatizations and tighter fiscal policy, as well as taxes on high salaries and labor reform. The federation’s communiqué highlighted several of the proposed reforms, saying they favored precarious working conditions and discriminatory practices. 

“It attacks women: during pregnancy, it would be possible to work up to 10 days before giving birth, which is currently only possible if the birth is brought forward,” it said. “Thus, the employer could ‘suggest’ that women work almost until they give birth.”

Argentina is one of the world’s main exporters of processed soybeans, and revenue from commodity exports is a major source of foreign currency needed to pay down debt and finance imports for the cash-strapped government amid a prolonged economic slide.

The SOEA oilseed union operates in the Rosario area, home to most of the country’s soybean processing plants and ports. Daniel Succi, the union’s secretary general, said the strike will continue while the congressional session lasts. “Afterwards, we’ll see; we’ll evaluate,” he said.

The bills up for debate include provisions to lower the threshold for salaries subject to income tax, part of a slimmed-down version of an earlier Milei-backed package. The original iteration of the bill was approved as a whole in February but LLA called for the bill to be sent back to commissions, a surprise move that voided its progress.

“We have a total stop of activity,” Alejandro Vargas, a United Maritime Workers Union (SOMU) leader, told local television.

The maritime union also called for demonstrations at Congress on Tuesday.

Gustavo Idigoras, who heads Argentina’s oilseeds and grains exporters chamber, said he agreed with the union’s opposition to changes to the income tax but expressed worry.

“This industry pays very good salaries, so it’s contradictory to paralyze it [with a strike] making those who provide these jobs lose money,” said Idigoras.

With 136 individual speakers on the roster for the debate, the Lower House session is expected to be drawn out and could last until Tuesday.

You may also be interested in: Round two: Argentina’s Lower House debates Milei’s new ‘omnibus bill’



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