Wave of surprise layoffs at the Human Rights Secretariat

Union representatives say they were told Secretary Alberto Baños, who is currently out of the country, ordered the dismissals

This article was updated on March 17, 2024, to reflect newly-confirmed layoffs

Twenty-six people from the human rights secretariat have been laid off without prior notice within the past week. Asked for comment, a press representative from the secretariat told the Herald that Secretary Alberto Baños was in Costa Rica and that they were unable to comment until he returned.

The severance notifications were sent out on March 8, but employees only began receiving them on Monday. The news broke that day when former Human Rights Secretariat Horacio Pietragalla Corti wrote about the layoffs on X. “They are laying off workers with years of training, commitment, and dedication to their duties,” he said.

It is common for state employees in Argentina to be hired under temporary contracts. While the state carries out some hires directly, others are part of labor agreements between official dependencies and other institutions. These contracts are usually renewed, but few people hired this way become permanent staff. The severed secretariat workers had been hired as part of a long-standing agreement between the Justice Ministry and the Automobile Trade Chamber (CCA, for its Spanish initials).

The layoffs came as a surprise. On March 1, Baños announced that only five out of the 15 members of the press team would be staying. However, union representatives from the secretariat met with Baños and agreed that the 10 employees leaving the press department should be reassigned to other areas. 

Union representatives filed a formal proposal on March 5, offering details on where each employee could be reassigned. However, Baños did not give any answers and flew to Costa Rica at the end of last week. After that, workers started receiving severance notifications.

Press and communications workers were the first ones notified on Monday. However, employees from other areas, including memory sites from different provinces, the National Memory Archive and the Human Rights Federal Council, also began getting dismissal notifications throughout the week.

On Wednesday, Justice Ministry officials told union representatives from the State Workers Association (ATE in Spanish) that the ministry didn’t know anything about the layoffs and hadn’t ordered them, promising to give a solution. “They said that Baños ordered them,” ATE representative and secretariat employee Flavia Fernández Brozzi told the Herald

Workers are having daily gatherings while they wait for Baños to return from Costa Rica on Monday. That day, they will protest at the secretariat and ask him to reincorporate all the laid off employees into their positions.

More of the secretariat’s employees could be laid off at the end of the month. After taking office on December 10, President Javier Milei ordered all 2023 temporary contracts to be terminated. This didn’t affect the secretariat at the time, however, because all of its contracts done in this modality had been renewed until March 31.


All Right Reserved.  Buenos Aires Herald