A major labour dispute is turning into an ugly conflict with the main Argentine dissident labour union challenging the government of President Cristina Fernandez and her latest policy of freezing supermarket prices for two months in a bold attempt to contain inflation.
Hugo Moyano, once an ally and now the powerful leader of the anti-government organized labour CGT is putting pressure on wholesale distribution stores to have its workforce change union registration into his teamster organization from the commerce union, which happens to be aligned with the government.
“The Kirchnerite government is betraying the workforce. There is a whole attitude toward our organization. We have to find ways to get through what is thrown our way. The only person I kneel before is God. We will not falter or flake!” said Moyano Tuesday morning before the Labour Ministry in an improvised rally at the end of a protest march.
Earlier in the morning he had challenged Labour Minister Carlos Tomada “the biggest traitor” of the workers’ movement.
They hate me but the truth is that they're also a bit scared of me said Moyano at the steps of the Ministry.
The teamsters union, which is an affiliate of Hugo Moyano CGT umbrella organization, is blockading 30 out of 32 Maxiconsumo wholesale supermarkets through out Argentina.
In response to the blockade, which began on February 13 and has since spread, affecting the supply of goods to small and medium-sized supermarket chains Minister Tomada in a press conference stated that Moyano’s motives for a blockade “do not make sense.”
“Transferring wholesale logistics workers to the aegis of the teamsters union is like transferring judicial officials to an airplane pilot’s union; their jobs are simply not the same,” said Tomada.
The Labour Minister also stated that it was “more than mere coincidence” that Moyano had decided to blockade now and believed the cause was most likely political.
In effect last week Moyano announced the creation of a political party: “Party for Culture, Education and Work” (CPCEyT) to represent his umbrella union organization in the next October 2013 legislative elections.
Tomada insisted on his belief that the measure was designed to “distort the normal distribution of foodstuffs in order to disrupt the price freeze accord signed between all the supermarkets vendors” and Domestic Trade Secretary Guillermo Moreno. The minister requested that Moyano choose “the legal route” to protest, describing the current protest as “illegal.”
“Maxiconsumo workers do not feel represented by Moyano,” Tomada stated, and emphasized that “the government would always defend workers”.
At the same time, the protest measures could cause shortages of 50,000 products provided to small and medium-size businesses throughout the country, warned Maxiconsumo Company President Pedro Szapiro and the executive Director of the Federation of Chinese Supermarkets Miguel Angel Calvete.
Calvete remarked that it was an “inopportune time to hold the protest” since it started right after the government had reached a price control deal with the supermarkets and was worried that it could hurt the implementation of the accord.
The Chinese supermarket representative did admit, though, that the strike would not affect the large supermarket chains since they have their own distribution centres and purchase their goods directly from the factories.
Teamsters’ union under-secretary Pablo Moyano (and son of Hugo Moyano), who directly organized the blockade, accused the government of preventing Maxiconsumo logistic workers from receiving an extra 3,000 pesos in their monthly salary and other additional benefits.
Moyano stated that if the workers were allowed to transfer the logistic workers to their union, their standard of living would increase and blamed Commerce labour union leader Armando Cavalieri, who reports to the government aligned CGT labour union, for the worker’s “plight.”