Argentina's state oil company YPF will reduce operations in the Patagonia region and lay off 1,700 workers, a decision that comes amid already high rates of unemployment that have sparked protests against the conservative government of Mauricio Macri.
In February, Argentina's Chamber of Special Petroleum Operations Companies, or CEOPE, implemented a plan of austerity measures in the area as part of an agreement with Macri's government. The 1,700 YPF workers now without jobs continued working until July, but only received 50 percent of their wages during this period.
"The cost of maintaining the idle workforce can't be sustained over time," a YPF source is reported to have said following the mass layoffs, adding the company cannot afford to employ “contractors whose work is well below the standards that YPF requires."
Macri's presidency, which began in December 2015, has been plagued by nationwide protests over a series of neoliberal reforms, from mass layoffs to deregulation and cuts in wages.
His government has engaged in a systematic effort to reduce the size of its public sector workforce, after signing a decree allowing for a comprehensive review of staffing and labor contracts which eventually led to the dismissal of thousands of workers.
More than 154,000 state and private sector employees have lost their jobs since January resulting in widespread unrest.
At least 15 major protests took place in the country during the first 6 months since the election of Macri. Many of these were carried out by thousands of workers and their labor unions who were protesting against the cuts.
In June, oil workers in Argentina organized a strike against the government, paralyzing worksites for 48 hours and cutting off the flow of gas to several provinces.
In September, the “Great Federal March” saw thousands of Argentine workers march from various points throughout the country.
Last month, a huge march by unions and social organizations took the center of Buenos Aires to demand the right-wing government declare a social emergency in Argentina amid the economic recession and inflation that stands above 40 percent.