What does Milei’s massive presidential decree actually say?

The document contains over 300 articles annulling or modifying laws that protect Argentine workers from predatory business practices

President Javier Milei issued a mega presidential decree of necessity and urgency on Wednesday night, declaring an economic, financial, fiscal, social, and administrative “emergency” in Argentina. The executive order — a DNU, by its Spanish acronym — will impact tariffs and healthcare while completely deregulating the economy, overturning laws that protect workers, including the right to strike, and limiting benefits like severance pay and maternity leave.

The document, which was released in conjunction with Milei’s public address, is 86 pages long and contains 366 articles. It was signed by Milei, Chief of Staff Nicolás Posse, and the administration’s nine cabinet members, including Foreign Minister Diana Mondino, whose presence in Paris since Tuesday has raised questions about the authenticity of her signature and the legitimacy of the DNU itself.

Milei’s decree removes all restrictions on the supply of goods and services and repeals laws that it claims “distort market prices, stop private initiative, or prevent the spontaneous interaction between supply and demand.”

The DNU has yet to take effect because the document failed to include an article indicating that it would do so upon its publication in the Official Bulletin. According to the Civil and Commercial Code, executive orders cannot become official unless a date is specified, although Milei denied the need for a second DNU on Thursday, telling Radio Rivadavia that the decree “is already in full force.”

An assault on workers’ rights

Among other measures, the decree eliminates penalties for companies that fail to register their employees, distort their date of hire, or misrepresent their salaries. It also abolishes an article of the labor contracts law that requires a company to pay twice as much in compensation if it fires an employee who was unregistered. 

The DNU limits workers’ right to strike or protest for more favorable conditions. As lawyer and labor investigator Luis Campos wrote on X (formerly Twitter), “We need to go back to 1976” — the year that Argentina’s last military dictatorship began — “to find comparable changes of such magnitude.”

In addition, the DNU reclassifies kindergarten to high school education, healthcare and utility production, transport, and distribution as “essential services” that must operate at no less than 75% capacity, thus preventing workers from carrying out massive strikes.

Not only does the decree increase the trial period for new hires from three to eight months, but employers will no longer be subject to fines for failing to register employees or provide even a reduced severance pay. They will also be able to fire employees for going on strike or taking part in other forms of workplace protests. 

The DNU specifically targets union gatherings. “Any action of this kind could be considered a very serious infraction and be subject to sanctions,” Campos explained.

Finally, while the decree preserves the total number of days women can take for maternity leave (90), it reduces the minimum number to which they’re entitled immediately before childbirth from 30 to 10. Previously, pregnant mothers had the option of taking 45 days of maternity leave before and after childbirth. 

Privatization of public companies

The decree establishes that all state-owned companies, as well as firms partially owned by the state, will be turned into limited companies — the first step toward privatization. This includes the oil giant YPF, which then-President Carlos Menem privatized in the 1990s before the state bought back over half its stock under President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, national carrier Aerolíneas Argentinas, and most of Argentina’s train companies, among others.

To expedite this process, the DNU repeals a law that specifically bans the privatization of public companies without congressional approval and establishes a 180-day waiting period for these changes to take effect.

The DNU separately modifies the Associations Law and Sports Law, which would allow football clubs to become private sports corporations.

Under current Argentine Football Association (AFA) rules, all clubs must operate as non-profit civil associations to receive membership status in AFA’s assembly. Clubs that privatize would no longer be in compliance and would therefore become ineligible to participate in South America’s CONMEBOL tournaments.

Mass deregulation

Among the DNU’s most controversial measures is its deregulation of the credit card industry. The decree lifts restrictions preventing these companies from increasing interest rates by more than 3% monthly and applying exorbitant fees for delays in payment. If Congress declines to overrule Milei’s executive order, the industry will be allowed to penalize its clients as it sees fit.  

According to the DNU, restrictions on private healthcare costs will be removed entirely in order to “ensure competitiveness.” This means that healthcare providers owned by unions, which until now had been assigned to workers in a given sector, will have to compete with private healthcare companies.  

Along similar lines, regulations that have protected consumers, including the supermarket industry’s Ley de Góndolas “Shelf Law,” have been axed, and companies will now be able to increase their prices indiscriminately. The DNU also abolishes the Ley de Alquileres (Rental Law), thus eliminating maximum and minimum rental periods and protections for renters against being charged in foreign currencies.

Milei announced these measures with inflation in excess of 160% and after imposing a controversial new security protocol that limits protesters right to assemble. 

You may also be interested in: Spontaneous protests erupted after Milei’s unprecedented deregulation decree


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