Argentina truckers reach pay deal, lift strike

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 21, 2012 2:51 PM
Argentina truckers reach pay deal, lift strike
By Helen Popper and Guido NejamkisBUENOS AIRES (Reuters) - Argentina's most powerful union leader, Hugo Moyano, called off a strike by fuel truckers on Thursday after securing a pay increase, but called a one-day strike next week to demand that President Cristina Fernandez lower taxes.Striking truckers blocked fuel depots and refineries for a second day on Thursday, sparking shortages at gas stations and some homes in one of the biggest trade-union challenges to Fernandez in her five years in office.Truck owners said they reached a deal with striking drivers to raise salaries 25.5 percent. However, the truckers are also pushing for Fernandez to raise the income tax floor."We always said that a pay rise wouldn't be enough," said Pablo Moyano, Hugo Moyano's son and another top leader of the truckers' union, which is feared for its capacity to bring Latin America's third-largest economy to a standstill."We're going to continue staging surprise strikes in different sectors until the government changes its policy of continually cutting into workers' wages," he said.Hugo Moyano described center-left Fernandez as "arrogant" and called a national truckers strike and a day of protests for next Wednesday.Fernandez, who won re-election by a landslide last October, returned to the country from an overseas trip early due to the protest by the truck drivers, which had been due to end at about midday on Friday.Moyano used to be a close ally of the president but their strategic alliance collapsed over the last year.Loathed by many middle-class Argentines, the burly truck driver also heads the nation's largest labor federation and he will seek a third term as president in an election next month.Annual inflation estimated at about 25 percent is stoking labor unrest as the economy cools after a long boom.Surging prices have also fueled capital flight and eroded the competitiveness of Argentine goods, prompting Fernandez to slap unorthodox curbs on imports and foreign currency purchases that are riling importers and the middle class.The strike also reflects jostling for position within Moyano's CGT federation ahead of next month's leadership elections and within Fernandez's ruling and fragmented Peronist party, analysts say.($1 = 4.5025 Argentine pesos)(Additional reporting by Magdalena Morales, Hilary Burke and Juliana Castilla; Writing by Helen Popper; Editing by Jackie Frank)