One of Argentina's top two labor unions issued a report Tuesday saying that at least 40,000 workers in the public and private sectors were fired or not recommissioned since December, when the new administration of right-wing President Mauricio Macri took office.
About 19,000 employees laid off were in the public sector and 22,500 in the private, of which almost half worked in construction sector, the Argentina Workers Union or CTA reported.
The statement by CTA noted that their statistics were not final nor accurate, as some of dismissals they included in the report have been overturned in court.
The union condemned what they believe to be “an attack run by employers against employees, supported and encouraged by the government” in a bid to “significantly reduce workforce costs.”
Labor unions are currently negotiating with the government and employers for the annual update of wages in order to adjust them with the country's high inflation rate (about 20 percent), and the consequently higher cost of living.
While unions advocate for a 30 to 45 percent increase, the government refuses to go above 20 to 25 percent.
Meanwhile, the prices of basic goods and electricity have skyrocketed in the past weeks, as a result of Macri's decision to devaluate the currency on one hand, which automatically increased the prices of imported goods and put further pressure on inflation (expected to reach 35 percent in 2016), while adjusting electricity prices to the inflation rate—meaning a more than 200 percent raise on Argentinians' electricity bill.
The CTA argued that dismissals were part of a strategy that the employers and the government used in order to “generate fear in order to weaken collective action,” said Luis Campos from the CTA.
He added that unions plan to respond with centralized actions in the following weeks.
The massive layoffs in the public sector included 120 staffers from the presidential palace, over 2,000 senate staffers, 600 employees of the Kirchner Cultural Center whose contracts were not renewed, 150 cabinet workers, and dozens more infrastructure and communications laborers. Another 50 employees were fired from the Central Bank and 140 from the military.
In the province of Buenos Aires, some 4,500 public sector workers have been fired in the municipality of La Plata, up to 1,000 in Quilmes, and almost 300 in Lanus.
Aside from the dismissals, Macri’s decisions to spike electricity prices, scrap the country’s media law, cut education spending, increase censorship, and rule by decree, among other moves, have sparked public outrage and a wave of protests against the right-wing policy agenda.