Argentina’s minimum wage: talks fall through amid protests

The CGT blamed the government for the failed negotiations, describing the current minimum wage as “absolutely degraded” by inflation

Telam 20240215 CONSEJO DEL SALARIO-PROTESTAS. Foto: Raul FERRARI/Telam/mcl

Social movements and left-wing organizations grouped under Unión Piquetera protested in front of Labor Ministry headquarters on Thursday while the government met with unions and businesspeople to discuss Argentina’s minimum wage. No agreement was reached, with the Herald’s sister publication Ámbito Financiero reporting that the talks fell through.

The Minimum Wage Council — comprising state, worker and employee representatives — held a virtual meeting at 4:30 p.m. with the remit of setting a new floor for the minimum wage — it currently sits at AR$156,000 a month while the basic food basket for a single worker reached AR$491,000 in January. Before the meeting, the General Labor Confederation (CGT) had demanded an increase of at least 85% “due to devaluation and accumulated inflation between December 2023 and February 2024.”

In a press release on Thursday evening, the CGT squarely blamed the government for the failed negotiations, saying the government “evaded the meeting [and hindered it from] taking place normally by every means possible.”

“The CGT has been requesting that the Council meet since December to establish a new minimum wage and a new unemployment benefit. In times of incredibly high inflation and intolerable and unjustifiable increases, establishing a social [wage] floor is necessary and cannot be delayed,” said the press release which described the current minimum wage as “absolutely degraded” by inflation. 

“The social irresponsibility shown today by the Labor Ministry only confirms the government’s absolute indifference to the social tragedy that the Argentine people are going through,” concluded the press release.

Argentina’s minimum wage defines who receives social benefits such as Potenciar Trabajo, a cash payment for working-age adults who are in poverty. By law, the minimum wage also impacts the value of pensions and the number of people who pay income tax (the threshold being the equivalent of 15 minimum wages).

From 11 a.m. onwards, cooks and neighborhood coordinators belonging to leftist and independent social organizations had gathered with banners, drums, and banners demanding “a minimum wage equal to the basic food basket.” Demonstrators blocked both directions of Alem Avenue in the afternoon (allowing public transport to circulate on the Metrobus lane) with City Police present.

“We demand a meeting with the Labor Ministry because we do not feel represented by the CGT’s claim and we’re here for the thousands and thousands in danger of losing the Potenciar Trabajo program,” Eduardo Belliboni, leader of the left-wing Polo Obrero, told Télam. He urged the CGT “to launch a strike and a fight plan for wages in Argentina.”

“More than ever, we need to launch a fight plan and a national strike for the [minimum] wage and pensions in Argentina.”

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