Banks across Argentina will refuse attention to the public on Thursday in a 24-hour strike organized by their union, La Bancaria, demanding pay rises and income tax rebates as annual wage negotiations known as paritarias kick off.
Banks will also refuse to offer phone and virtual assistance services in a “massive” nationwide strike, La Bancaria told the Herald. Banking associations encouraged account holders to do their banking online or wait until the next day.
The banking sector is the first to hold wage negotiations each year, and their negotiations usually set expectations for wage rounds in other sectors.
Banking associations said in a statement that they would “redouble efforts to minimize inconvenience” and emphasized that credit and debit cards, online banking, bank apps, cash machines and electronic wallets would be operating normally.
They also stated their willingness to continue negotiating with the workers.
In the paritarias, employers and employees enter salary negotiations, mediated by the Labor Ministry. In the past, deals have typically been made once a year, but amid rising inflation, parties are increasingly setting dates for negotiations to be periodically reviewed.
Bank workers have not yet reached a final agreement for 2022, since they received a 94.1% rise, while the official inflation rate for the year was 94.8%. Unions will continue to push for a retroactive salary increase to compensate for the difference.
Today’s strike by La Bancaria, led by Sergio Palazzo, was called after negotiations held at the Labor Ministry on February 14 were unsuccessful.
During those meetings, banks offered a 29.5% pay rise for the first half of 2023, to be paid in three installments by May, but union leaders rejected it.
“That is not a wage round, but an inflation-indexed salary adjustment,” Claudio Bustelo, press secretary at La Bancaria, told the Herald.
As well as pay rises, bank workers are calling for income tax rebates. “Most of us pay 35%, the maximum,” said Bustelo. His union is demanding that banks absorb part of the tax, or that they compensate the workers.
Currently, workers that have a gross salary higher than AR$404,062 (US$2068 at the official rate) pay the income tax.
Economy minister Sergio Massa said in December that less than 10% of workers reach the income tax threshold.
The unions plan to continue the negotiations. As well as striking, bank workers also organized a march through Buenos Aires’ central business district.