The underground workers’ trade union (AGTSyP) informed us that a multi-sector front, consisting of social movements, students, organizations in defence of consumers, trade unions and political parties has been formed to repudiate the increase of the underground fares and are demanding a public audience NOW!
Activists of the “multi-sector” front have been distributing thousands of leaflets and collecting thousands of signatures under a petition of repudiation of the unwarranted increase. They are demanding that a public hearing should be held on this matter in accordance with the Statute of the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires.
Passengers on strike? Skip the turnstiles!
The Buenos Aires underground workers have been among the first to become reorganised after the privatising craze of the end of last century. The first step they had to take was to unite all the workers in one organisation. At that time if there were thirty people working at a single tube station they would be divided into various trade unions which meant no joint measure could ever be taken. Finally there was an agreement that everybody should enrol into UTA (a metro union) which could guarantee best protection. Then, once they were in a sole organisation, they started posing their demands and putting their new union bosses to the test. But instead of help from UTA, their lawful trade union, all they received was harassment, threats and brutality, and a long and nerve wracking battle to get disaffiliated and create their own union.
The details of this fight cannot be told here but briefly, the new leaders of this movement gained the support of the vast majority of the underground workers by giving visible proof of what they meant by being “different”. They consulted each step they took with all the grassroots, and they negotiated nothing unless they had the OK from the rank and file. They returned to the old proven stance of being a shop steward means more risks and challenge, requires more conviction and provided no extra privilege. In this way, with the morale of the membership high they recovered several rights that privatisation had snatched away from them. At the same time, they exposed the deplorable state that trains were in due to a lack of investments and maintenance which meant that accidents could be expected at any moment.
As soon as the news that Mauricio Macri, newly re-elected Mayor of Buenos Aires, had authorised Metrovías, the private company running the underground, to increase the fares from 1.10 to 2.50 Argentine pesos, Segovia, the head of the new trade union said, “We are not going to sit there waiting for the passengers to blame us for such abuse. We still cannot say whether any increase is justified.
We have to see their accounting before we authorise this new attempt to make workers pay for the crisis. And anyhow, until the day when the public transport is nationalised under the control of workers and users, there will be no lasting solution”. So they disconnected the turnstiles allowing people to walk through and travel for free for 3 hours in the morning and again in the afternoon.
Elizabeth Leonidez is a member of the PSTU, Argentine section of the IWL.