Argentina braces for labour strike to raise pressure on Macri

Protesters against austerity measures plan to shut down flights, the metro in Buenos Aires, banks and schools.

    Argentina braces for labour strike to raise pressure on Macri
    Union leaders called for a 'complete rejection of the government's economic policy' [File:Marcos Brindicci/Reuters]

    Argentinian labour unions have called for a national strike to protest against President Mauricio Macri's fiscal austerity programme, which has proven painful for families already hit hard by a combination of a shrinking economy and fast-rising consumer prices. 

    "This strike is a demonstration of repudiation by our society of a government which has produced hunger, misery, unemployment and indebtedness," declared Hugo Moyano, the boss of the truckers' union.

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    Union leaders called for a "rejection of the government's economic policy".

    According to local reports, on Tuesday protesters plan to shut down flights, the metro in Buenos Aires, banks and schools.

    On Wednesday, unions will lead a rally at the presidential palace joined by politicians from the opposition party.

    The strikes come less than two weeks after the government started freezing prices on basic goods and services in an attempt to control soaring inflation.

    "It's a difficult time for Argentine families. March and April have abnormally high levels of inflation due to the unstable exchange rate," Finance Minister Nicolas Dujovne said last week.

    "We're convinced we're going to win the battle against inflation," he added.

    'Money doesn't buy anything'

    The government committed to not increase the price of public services such as transport, gas and electricity for the rest of the year.

    But Argentinians are not very positive.

    "This situation is very, very bad, we [are seeing] an increase in poverty ... the truth is money doesn't buy anything," Soledad, a social organiser, said.

    The  country's Federal Trade Union in a tweet also called on supporters to gather and demonstrate on Tuesday. 

    Macri is seeking to win a second term in October. A proponent of free markets, he came to office in 2015 as a favourite among business leaders and investors.

    However, opinion polls show him losing popularity as he cuts public utility subsidies to erase the primary fiscal deficit.

    "It really worries us, money is just not enough. I don't earn in dollars, and it's impossible to eat, live and pay taxes," Elisa, a pensioner in Argentina told Al Jazeera

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    Argentina's previous leader Cristina Fernandez published a memoir last week, an action that many perceived as a launch of a campaign to return to power. 

    Despite corruption cases against the former president, polls are showing there could be a tight race between both candidates, should she run. 

    "Macri is getting worse and worse (in the polls), while Cristina is getting better and better," said Gabriel Rubinstein, a consultant and former economy ministry official.

    Fernandez was known for her interventionist and populist policies while in office. Some credit her for leading the country out of an economic crisis while others blame her for creating its current woes.

    "There is a crisis of confidence in the [current] government and logically if Cristina becomes the favourite candidate, she generates many fears about her past," Rubinstein added, referring to policies such as ushering in currency controls.

    Meanwhile, the situation is getting increasingly difficult in the South American nation. Recent reports show poverty has risen to 32 percent from around 26 percent the previous year, and according to analysts the 45 percent inflation rate is the main reason for that.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies