The Unified Union of Argentine Tire Workers (Sutna, by its initials in Spanish) has announced the agreement reached in the last hours of Wednesday 13 by which the company Fate accepts to pay for the remaining part of wages that are not covered by ATP benefits (Asistencia al Trabajo y la Producción- Labor and Production Assistance, government subsidy of company wages). Thus, the agreement guarantees the payment of 100 % of the workers’ net wages for the months of April, May and June. This is a retreat of CEO Javier Madanes Quintanilla’s administration and a victory without reservations for the tire workers.
While the rest of the employers in the tire industry had accepted to pay 100 % of the workers’ net salary, in Fate, the business group led by Javier Madanes Quintanila paid 50 % of the wages due for the second half of April and threatened to do the same in the first half of May.
The agreement was reached a few hours after Sutna’s mobilization to the entrance of the Ministry of Labor and after a protest camp had been settled for several days at the entrance of the Fate factory. The government announced that the tire factories will be included in the ATP program aimed to assist employers by paying a part of the salaries. Sutna has publicly reported the details of the extensive teleconferences that were held with the bosses and the Ministry of Labor during the last few days, and denounced the intransigence of the company, which at all costs insisted on cutting workers' salaries, even when receiving millions of pesos in assistance from the State.
The mobilization of Monday 11 attracted the attention of most of the media and the workers from all over the country who welcomed the struggle initiative. The measure concentrated a significant number of workers from Fate and other tire factories, along with an outstanding mobilization of Polo Obrero [the Workers' Party organization of the jobless], the Class Struggle Trade Union Coordinating Committee and the Combative Trade Union Plenary [CSC and PSC respectively by their initials in Spanish].
Complying with the physical-distancing regulations, the mobilization spread through Callao Avenue. The government has taken the conflict waged by the Sutna as a huge potential danger. The anger is building up among the workers who comply with quarantine and are victims of the wage reduction pact agreed between the CGT (union central-General Confederation of Labor), the UIA (Industrialist Union of Argentina) and the government, or that are called to work, in most cases, under greatly dangerous health conditions.
In particular, in the tire industry, it has been one month since Alberto Fernández announced that he would enable tire production in Argentina. Despite the fact that production has not resumed, the employers’ intention to reduce wages has encountered the determined position of the class-struggle leadership of Sutna to reject the cuts. It so happens that the presidential decrees were tailored to the needs of the bosses and the agreements with the union bureaucracy, and therefore, in the tire industry, they run up against a union that has been won back by its workers.
The agreement that guarantees the payment of full salaries also includes the discussion and implementation of the sanitary protocols at all the plants. It guarantees the total payment of the health care plan, which aims to support the families’ health in this critical sanitary context. The provision of workers’ return to production will be progressive, taking into account the health needs. This includes also the workers’ journey to the plants, as the number of chartered vehicles is to be doubled and modified to comply with the social distance and health care requirements. The defense of wages is strictly related to the health issue. With a guaranteed salary, no worker will be pressured to go to work at any cost. The employers’ policy in Argentina to proceed with suspensions and salary reductions represents a pressure factor for workers who result forced to return to their job positions in order to secure their full salary or most part of it.
The struggle for wages and for better working and health conditions is part of a common problem to the entire labor movement in the phase of a massive relaxation of the quarantine in industry. The Sutna is leading the struggle in defense of workers' wages and health. Every step in this direction strengthens the struggle and the organization of all workers so that the crisis does not fall on the backs of the laboring population of Argentina. This new triumph of the tire workers' organization reinforces a workers' solution to the capitalist crisis.