Chaos in Buenos Aires City traffic as the 600.000 daily subway commuters were again left on Wednesday with no service for the fifth day running and no prospects of a solution in sight as a mediation effort with striking workers collapsed.
Following the failed effort delegates told reporters that the meeting scheduled to resolve the ongoing conflict between a breakaway subway workers union and Metrovías was suspended, and that the strike could be extended if workers decide so during a series of assemblies they will carry throughout the day.
The strike began last Friday night and has been affecting thousands of passengers everyday causing transport delays and heavier traffic across the city.
The conflict surrounds wage hikes (28% increase) and better working conditions for staff and in all of the negotiation talks held up to now, an accord has not yet been reached.
However there is a political ingredient from the moment the federal government of President Cristina Fernandez has transferred the subway service and other transport systems to the City of Buenos Aires, but without the heavy subsidies. The City admits to having subsidies phased out but not overnight.
City of Buenos Aires conservative mayor Mauricio Macri is seen as a powerful and convincing presidential candidate for 2015 and Cristina Fernandez is pointing her guns on him.
On Monday the Buenos Aires City government implemented a free transport service of 500 school buses between 6pm and 8.30pm to transport commuters affected by the underground trains strike.
According to the strikers’ leader Nestor Segovia, “direct responsibility” for the continued conflict fell on Buenos Aires City Mayor Macri, and described the decision to use school buses as “infantile.”
“Macri is directly responsible for this situation. Instead of resolving the conflict, he deploys school buses. What an infantile decision!” said Segovia.
Macri accused the workers of “pushing politics at the expense of the people” and insisted that the national government “is still responsible” for the service.
National Transport Secretary Alejandro Ramos asked Macri “not to hold the people hostage” and to “take charge of the subway service.”
The member of the national government criticized “this capricious behaviour” of the City mayor for not taking charge of “something so obvious.”
Although not the responsibility of the City of Buenos Aires the situation has been further complicated by the rickety train system. A commuter train derailed on Monday when arriving to Retiro’s terminal station in the heart of Buenos Aires and crashed into a signalling post leaving more that thirty people injured.
At least 19 ambulances, medical staff, fire-fighters and policemen assisted the passengers that were left inside the wagon belonging to the Mitre line.
Due to the accident, the service had to be suspended for a few hours, until an emergency service that did not reach the Retiro train station was applied.
A second double-derailment occurred at night, fortunately with no injuries, but forced the service to be stopped until the following day when authorities admitted operating with delays.
Last May an early train packed with commuters crashed in another Buenos Aires rail terminal leaving 51 dead and over 700 injured. The accident was attributed to poor maintenance of trains and lines, and lack of control by regulators. Several officials were sacked or resigned and the train system was re-nationalized.
But commuters from the Sarmiento line have to cope with no night service because of maintenance and repairs to the railways.