Milei hints at new wave of state layoffs

The president highlighted that 70,000 state contracts will lapse on March 31 while praising previous dismissals

In a speech on Tuesday, Argentine President Javier Milei highlighted that 70,000 contracts of state employees are set to expire soon amid a general wave of layoffs. He was speaking at a conference organized by the International Economic Forum of the Americas (IEFA) in Buenos Aires. 

“We eliminated discretionary transfers to the provinces, we also dismissed 50,000 public employees,” Milei said on Wednesday at the conference floor of the Four Seasons Hotel in Buenos Aires. “Not only that — [employment] contracts were terminated, notice that now more contracts are lapsing and 70,000 contracts are going to lapse.”

Earlier on Tuesday, the Association of State Workers (ATE), one of the unions representing public workers, held protests in various cities against the general wave of layoffs. ATE also rejected the government’s 8% increase proposal during Monday’s collective bargaining session. 

The spokesperson for ATE’s Buenos Aires City branch, Romina Piccirillo, told the Herald that some state workers are employed under temporary contracts that are renewed annually for an indefinite period.

She added that they arrived at the same number as Milei from the information they gathered from the union’s representatives, with 70,000 contracts expected to lapse on March 31. However, she said that before Milei’s IEFA speech they had calculated that only between 15 and 30% of the contracts would not be renewed.

“Let’s see if they confirm tomorrow that none of them will be renewed,” she said.

Piccirillo said that those 70,000 workers belong to all of the country’s state organisms — the Human Capital, Science and Economy ministries, the Social Security agency, the Energy Secretariat, and more. ATE marched to the Economy Ministry after a video recorded on Monday circulated on social media, showing an employee not being able to enter the building.

A spokesperson from the ministry told the Herald that this was not the case, as contracts lapse on March 31. The source said that, out of all the contracts in the ministry, 15% would not be renewed.

Speaking earlier at the IEFA Latam Forum, the International Monetary Fund’s Western Hemisphere Director Rodrigo Valdés cautioned that the Milei administration should “stress quality, not quantity” of fiscal adjustment in Argentina. For his part, Milei defended his government’s austerity measures, which he defined as a combination of “a blender” (cost reduction through inflationary exposure) and a “chainsaw” (cutting down the budget).

“Something we always knew with El Jefe (as he calls his sister and Legal Secretary, Karina Milei) is that if we won, it was because the situation was disastrous.”

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