| BUENOS AIRES, March 13
BUENOS AIRES, March 13 Argentine labor unions
appear to be pressuring the government by holding marches and
threatening strikes ahead of the country's key October mid-term
elections, Interior Minister Rogelio Frigerio said on Monday.
President Mauricio Macri took office 15 months ago promising
to jumpstart the economy by regaining the trust of investors
after a decade of free-spending populism. Until last week,
organized labor had signaled patience with his program aimed at
cutting labor costs, interest rates and the fiscal deficit.
Thousands of workers picketed on March 7 in protest of job
cuts and wages that have not kept up with inflation, which was
clocked at about 40 percent in 2016. Strikes by major labor
groups have been threatened over the weeks ahead.
"One can suspect that this is linked to the fact that this
is an election year," Frigerio told reporters. Labor issues, he
said would be resolved through negotiation rather than strikes.
"We had a very tough first year of policymaking, and we felt
we had the support of big labor organizations," he added. "You
have to ask yourself why they were with us during the toughest
months and are now threatening strikes and marches."
The one-day labor march last week attracted tens of
thousands of demonstrators in Buenos Aires. It was the first
demonstration by the CGT umbrella labor group this year and came
amid a two-day teachers' strike that delayed the opening of
school after the Southern Hemisphere summer holidays.
Employers have been hard-pressed to raise pay packages in
line with inflation while Macri's push to cut business costs has
prompted layoffs in the public and private sectors.
He needs his Cambiemos political coalition to do well in
October's elections in order for him to keep pushing his
economic reforms through Congress and position himself for
re-election in 2019.
(Writing by Hugh Bronstein; Editing by Alistair Bell)