Facing a deficit estimated at AR$10bn, the Buenos Aires provincial government today revealed further austerity measures. Provincial unions also detailed plans this morning for demonstrations tomorrow in response to the delay of bi-annual bonus payments announced last week.
Building off of Buenos Aires provincial governor Daniel Scioli’s announcement last week that bi-annual bonuses expected as part of state workers’ June salary would be split into four installments, Provincial Minister of Infrastructure and Transport Alejandro Arlía and Provincial Minister of the Economy Silvia Batakis today detailed further measures that the provincial government will take. All public works without guaranteed funding will be stalled, and some upper-level government officials will not receive their expected June bonus.
In this morning’s press conference, Arlía and Batakis expressed their discontent with the “little money received” last week from the federal government. The province had requested AR$2.8bn to help cover state workers salaries and bonuses, but last Wednesday the federal government announced that it transfer only AR$1bn to the province.
Arlía commented that he did not think the federal disbursement of less than half of the requested funds was driven by political reasons, but rather by the national government’s own “fiscal situation”. There had been rumors that the lack of funds reflected the deepening rift between President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and Governor Scioli, a split that has allegedly deepened since the governor announced he intends to run for president in 2015.
Minister of Interior and Transport Florencio Randazzo also confirmed that from the perspective of the federal government there is no “conflict” with Scioli. Randazzo commented that the federal government has fulfilled its legal obligations by sending AR$1bn to the province.
Today, Batakis ruled out the possibility of the provincial government distributing small denomination treasury bonds as a way of covering costs.
Arlía also reiterated that last week’s decision to split the bi-annual bonuses into four installments was necessary to “guarantee salaries in the coming months”. There are an estimated 550,000 state workers in the province of Buenos Aires, and their mid-year bonuses cost the provincial government approximately AR$2.3bn.
Also this morning, Roberto Baradel, Secretary General of Central de Trabajadores de Argentina (CTA) in the Province of Buenos Aires, detailed plans for tomorrow’s union demonstrations. Strikes had been proposed last week by many state unions after Scioli’s announcement that bonus payments would be spread out from July through October.
Health workers, teachers and court officials will be among those participating.
Workers from the Greater Buenos Aires will meet at the National Congress at 11 am, and will walk from there to the Provincial House at Callao 237. There will also be localised protests throughout the province, with larger demonstrations in the cities of Bahía Blanca, Olavarría, La Plata and Mar de Plata.
Teachers in the province have also announced that they will also continue to strike this coming Friday – as announced in reaction to last week’s announcements – if the entirety of their bonus is not paid before that date.
State workers typically receive two bonuses annually, one in June and one in December; together, these payments total a ’13th month’ salary. The practice, known collectively as the annual “aguinaldo”, began under the government of Juan Domingo Perón.
Baradel noted, “the workers are awaiting the bonus to be able to make a special purchase or to help pay off debts that we have been accumulating in the previous months”.
Although Scioli has confirmed that salaries for government workers would be paid on schedule for the month of June, Baradel commented that the government’s handling of the situation has “generated uncertainty with respect to the payment of salary payments in the future”.