BUENOS AIRES – Argentina’s major unions brought together tens of thousands of people on Friday for an early May Day event to protest a wave of layoffs and sharp increases in utility rates and the prices of everyday goods.
“This is a historic mobilization that has been done by the five organizations among which the labor movement is divided,” the veteran leader of the CGT federation, Hugo Moyano, told a rally in downtown Buenos Aires.
He complained that the conservative government of President Mauricio Macri, who took office in December, increased withholding taxes on workers and retirees with no discussion.
“We do not seek to govern jointly, but he must consult the unions,” Moyano said.
The protest represented a rare moment of unity for organized labor in Argentina, as all three factions of the CGT and both wings of the smaller CTA federation worked together to make it happen.
“It is not an act against the government, it is an act for the rights of workers,” said Antonio Calo, leader of another CGT faction.
Workers cannot get ahead when “many comrades” are being paid at last year’s level while the cost of basic necessities has gone up more than 60 percent, he said.
“What has not risen are wages, what has risen is poverty,” Calo said. “A million have fallen into poverty in four months.”
Around 120,000 jobs in both the public and private sectors have been eliminated since Macri took office, according to figures from the Argentine Chamber of Medium-Sized Businesses.