The subte strike that affected millions of commuters in the city of Buenos Aires since Friday 3rd August was lifted last night, after the AGTSyP union, private subte operator Metrovías, and the city government reached an agreement regarding working conditions. Subtes started running again at 5am this morning.
After days of fruitless negotiations, AGTSyP (Trade Union of Subte and Premetro Workers) signed a provisional agreement with Metrovías, which includes “improvements in working conditions, changes in leave entitlements, and a re-categorisation of wage levels” according to the union’s press release. The agreement, however, does not include any mention to the demanded wage increases.
“Our wage [increase] has not been solved. We are the only workers who have been waiting for eight months to hold a collective bargaining process, when there are already 1,500 collective bargaining agreements closed in the country,” said AGTSyP secretary-general Roberto Pianelli in a press conference last night.
Last Friday, Metrovías signed another agreement with UTA (Transport Worker’s Union), promising a 23% wage increase for subte workers. However, this is conditional to the city and national governments solving their dispute over control of the subte lines. Buenos Aires mayor Mauricio Macri decided in March not to go ahead with the transfer agreement he had signed with the national government in January, by which the city would take ownership of the contract with Metrovías.
Since then, the transport subsidies the national government transferred to the city – an estimated $124m – have been locked away in a bank account and the city government has refused to withdraw them, claiming it is not their responsibility. During the strike and subsequent negotiations, Metrovías demanded the city government free up those funds to be able to meet the workers’ demands, as well as to operate the service in a safe manner.
AGTSyP was not part of the wage agreement signed by UTA. The latter is the official union, but represents a small percentage of the subte workers. AGTSyP is a breakaway union with majority representation, which is also demanding to be recognised by the government as the genuine representative of the subte workers.
The strike has been suspended for now, and negotiations between the workers and the company will continue. However, the underlying dispute between the city and national government regarding control of the subte has not been solved.