Social leaders meet with Social Development to halt welfare cuts

Negotiations in late December aimed to ease protests, with mixed results

This week, Minister of Social Development Victoria Tolosa Paz met with leftist social movement coalition Unidad Piquetera (UP) and the Social Economy Workers’ Union (UTEP), which brings together pro-government social organizations, to negotiate welfare payments. 

In recent months both organizations have been protesting cuts to social welfare plans such as Potenciar Trabajo (‘Empowering Work’) –an employment programme aimed at low-income families– and the lack of thirteenth salary payments (aguinaldos) and end-of-year bonuses for cooperative workers, among other topics. Their measures included camping outside the Social Development Ministry on 9 de Julio Avenue, in the center of Buenos Aires.

The dispute comes amid an economic crisis, with poverty at 36.5% and extreme poverty at 6.8%. Social activists blame the government’s deal with the IMF, which involves reducing primary fiscal deficits, cutting utility subsidies, and adjusting pension and retirement benefits.

The meetings between the Minister and social movements are likely to ease the conflict, at least until the new year. In a meeting Monday between Tolosa Paz and members of the UTEP, the parties agreed a series of measures, including an extra government payment to recipients of Potenciar Trabajo, an initiative to boost State purchases from cooperatives, and the creation of an agreement for construction cooperatives to build housing in working class neighborhoods. 

A UTEP spokesperson told The Buenos Aires Herald its members were not giving comments to the press while it waited to see whether the government delivered on its promises. 

Unidad Piquetera, which sits further to the left politically than UTEP and has a more conflictive relationship with the government, met with Victoria Tolosa Paz on Wednesday but reached an impasse. The organization says it will wait for the Ministry to meet its commitments, including delivering food, making payments on time, and restoring Potenciar Trabajo social plans. 

UP leaders said that, as they did a month ago, their organizations would continue to protest if Tolosa Paz did not keep her promises.


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