The Association of State Workers (ATE), one of the largest unions in the country, rejected a proposal by Buenos Aires’ Governor Maria Eugenia Vidal to increase wages by a 30% to compensate for annual inflation. Other unions representing public employees, namely UPCN and Fegeppba, accepted the proposal. The slated increase comes amid protracted negotiations between the provincial government and the unions. ATE had previously taken its grievances to judicial authorities, who subsequently compelled the government to enter salary negotiations with the unions’ representatives in July. Reports further indicate that the government is slated to offer teachers’ union the same proposal.
Taking into account ATE’s influence, and its capacity to attract large numbers of supporters to demonstrations, the union is likely to call for demonstrations in La Plata, especially in the vicinity of the Government House. ATE has a record of challenging most policies implemented by the incumbent government of President Mauricio Macri, particularly noted for his market-oriented leanings. Given that Governor Vidal belongs to the ruling party, the ongoing labor-disputes with public employees are poised to deteriorate the government’s standing ahead of the 2019 presidential elections. In the meantime, although protracted salary disputes are commonplace in Argentina, Vidal could potentially seek to distance herself from President Macri to appease the unions. This assessment is underscored by different attitudes toward the ongoing economic crisis vis-a-vis the federal government. While Vidal is seemingly seeking to reduce social grievances by lowering taxes, financing food programs to assist vulnerable sectors, and negotiating wages increases, Macri is striving to reduce state-intervention on a nationwide level. For this reason, and following precedent, ATE is likely to organize protests in central Buenos Aires to gain national notoriety. Bearing in mind political considerations, the union is unlikely to accept the slated wage increase, potentially influencing other unions to oppose the government.