Javier Milei election victory: Unions and CGT reorganize to ease the panic

The labor confederation heavyweights will not rush into a conflict with Javier Milei 

CGT event marking 47 years since the coup. Source: CGT

The first working day after Javier Milei’s win, several unions got together and the General Confederation of Labor (CGT) organized a Thursday meeting. The premise is the same for all: to reduce levels of panic among union leaders after the announcements of imminent privatizations of public companies, and to agree priorities for their future connections with the La Libertad Avanza administration. 

The biggest news was a meeting last Tuesday between energy unions grouped in the Energy Workers Confederation (Catheda), who concluded that a total privatization of YPF is not part of the future government’s plans and that, in any case, the information they have is that there will be a capitalization of the state’s hydrocarbon company by welcoming private shareholders.

Neither the CGT nor Catheda plan to release any press statements or warnings in response to statements Milei or his collaborators have made about potential privatizations or reforms in the market and labor legislation. On the contrary, all signs point towards them establishing  dialogue with the new authorities and offering collaboration on the issues related to each union.

Last Tuesday at 9 a.m., 15 leaders showed up at the Buenos Aires headquarters of the Private Oil and Gas Union of Río Negro, Neuquén and La Pampa for a meeting that, although it was called two weeks ago, seemed particularly urgent in view of an electoral result none of the attendees wanted. 

They included the host Guillermo Pereyra, Hugo Moyano and two of his sons, Hugo Antonio (a lawyer of the Truckers union) and Jerónimo (the youngest and virtual private secretary of his father), Guillermo Moser (Luz y Fuerza), Sergio Sasia (Unión Ferroviaria), Juan Miguel “Cacho” García (gas station workers in the interior) and union representatives from sanitation, YPF oil, and natural gas workers, as well as senior workers for each activity.

The five-hour meeting focused on analyzing the election results and looking for a shared  position by Catheda in the face of the new political scenario. On this last issue, they decided to move forward with the creation of a Latin American federation of energy unions that will include summits in Mexico and Brazil, where hydrocarbon companies have resisted the privatization waves of recent decades. The key issue was the case of YPF, since Milei warned that he intends to transfer it to private hands in approximately two years.

There was a general conviction among the participants — who by the time of the meeting had already contacted future LLA officials and prominent players in the hydrocarbon market — that the deadline outlined by the president-elect implied that a full privatization was off the agenda. And that libertarians would instead aim for integration with private partners. They interpreted the nomination of Techint executive Horacio Marín as potential president of the oil company in the same way. Furthermore, they assessed that privatizing YPF would require a qualified majority in Congress (two-thirds of the votes) — a pipe-dream considering the future composition of the House.

Another widespread belief among union leaders is that the greatest fear is the influence of Mauricio Macri on the future administration. “We know Milei is not anti-Peronist,” said “Cacho” García, referring to the difference with the former president. In parallel, with their projections about the next government, union members also complained about Alberto Fernández’s administration, which they blame for the electoral defeat, and even grumbled about the role of the CGT. Several people in the meeting believe its stance was too lukewarm in the face of growing poverty and inflation. One of the participants attracted attention: Roberto Baratta, former right-hand man of Julio de Vido in the Ministry of Planning of the Kirchnerist governments, sat at the main table. The Herald’s sister title Ámbito was able to confirm whether he currently advises Pereyra.

Another union summit took place on Thursday at the Construction Workers’ Union (UOCRA), which has been informally nominated as the CGT venue for meetings and negotiations during the government transition. As Ámbito revealed, its general secretary Gerardo Martínez, the only one in the CGT’s “decision-making table” who met with Milei before the elections, was elected to lead the conversations with the libertarians.

Beyond the new government’s willingness, the idea that has gained momentum in the union members’ exchanges since Sunday night is that none of the CGT organizations will rush to take a confrontational position with the future government, at least until has been inaugurated and announced his first measures. They will not allow themselves to be dragged into what they expect will be a belligerent response from the state workers and teachers’ unions grouped in the two versions of the more contentious Argentine Workers Central (CTA)

Originally published in Ambito.com / Translated by Agustín Mango

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