Unions and civil society in contemporary Argentina

Unions and civil society in contemporary Argentina

Faced with economic, political and social changes and pressing internal divisions, the union movement in Argentina is now presented with the dillemma of whether to work as social intermediary or as opposition to the new Alianza government elected in 1999. The most important of these changes is the transformation of a labour market that historically operated under conditions of full employment but today characterized by high levels of unemployment and underemployment, eroding the union movement's base of support and ability to generate resources. In addition, for the first time since its consolidation in the mid 20th century, the union movement finds itself split between two confederations with opposite ideologies and in competition with each other. This division threatens to reproduce itself inside individual organizations.

Unions traditionally linked with the Peronist Junta will concentrate mostly on exercising their veto power on government proposals, constituting an opposition closely related with party politics. Those unions linked with the CTA, on the other hand, are more concerned with gaining resources from the government and influencing in public policies, especially those intended to tackle the needs of the poor, lack of employment and low income, acting in effect, more as intermediaries for the government.

The response of unions to neoliberal reforms tended to divide it into competing factions or organizations. The predominate orientation of Argentine unionism, created by the majority faction in the CGT, was a “conservative adaptive” response. The axis of interchange and political negotiation of union leaders was the defense of their corporative prerogatives.

  • The monopoly of representation based on union licensing,
  • Its role in collective bargaining, preserving the participation of the top union leadership, including their prerogative to delegate responsibilities to lower levels in case of decentralization,
  • The control of social service funds even when employer contributions were reduced in some periods as a result of regulation by the executive branch,
  • Candidacies in the PJ and representation in PJ membership in congressional committees, especially in the Commission on Labor Legislation of the Chamber of Deputies in which the majority of PJ deputies have a union background.
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