After a marathon session, Congress sanctioned the so-called anti-layoffs law in the early hours of this morning.
The bill, which calls for the declaration of a ‘Labour Emergency’ and prohibits job layoffs for a six-month period, received 147 votes in favour and three against. Another 88 legislators, including the ruling Cambiemos coalition, chose to abstain.
Having already been approved by The Senate, the bill will now be sent to President Mauricio Macri. The president’s spokespeople have repeatedly implied that he will veto the law today or tomorrow.
The vote on the Anti-Layoffs law came a little before 6am, almost 18 hours after the session in the Chamber of Deputies had commenced.
The debate over the law only began late into the evening after the Chamber had already voted in favour of two other bills: a Law of Access to Public Information and a project to return VAT on essential goods to low-income consumers.
The Anti-Layoffs bill had been at the centre of intense political negotiations between different parties in Congress. The proposal calls for establishing a period of 180 days during which time layoffs without just cause would be prohibited in both the public and private sectors. Workers that are laid off in that period can either file a lawsuit or accept the decision and receive double the standard compensation.
The bill was supported by the opposition Frente para la Victoria (FpV) and leftist parties, but rejected by Macri’s Cambiemos bloc.
Once again, Sergio Massa’s Frente Renovador (FR) seemed set to play a decisive role, with Massa seeking to impose his own version of the anti-layoffs bill that included special exemptions and incentives for Small- and Medium-sized Enteprises (SMEs).
In the end, the Cambiemos bloc decided to abstain from the vote, thus ensuring it would be approved. This way, the ruling party sought to preempt a possible agreement between all opposition groups on a more extreme bill to block layoffs.
“We abstain because in the last few hours the Peronist groups were seeking an agreement,” explained Mario Negri, leader of Cambiemos in the Lower House. “We know that we have lost, that our view is not shared by the majority, but we have not betrayed anyone. We have not shifted out position.”
Negri’s defence came after a tense encounter with Massa, in which the FR leader accused Cambiemos of making an about turn to block his own proposal.
Resigned to the voting intentions of other parties, the FR eventually decided to support the bill. “The abstention by the ruling party changes the scenario, and as we share the spirit of the bill voted in the Senate, we will now vote in support of it,” explained FR legislator Graciela Camaño.
President Macri will have ten days in which he can veto the law.
Members of the ruling party confirmed today the president’s intention to veto the law, which he has called “arbitrary” and “counter-productive”.
“The president’s decision to veto it remains unchanged, because we believe it is a proposal with no useful end, which won’t provide any benefits to workers, and thus unnecessary,” said Pro legislator Pablo Tonelli this morning. “For these reasons, the president will veto it.”
Tonelli also told local radio that his party’s abstention came because “there was no sense in prolonging an unnecessary debate, it was more practical and healthy to end it.”
During last night’s debate, FpV Congressional leader Héctor Recalde warned that “if the president vetoes the law he will face another veto: that of the workers.”