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Argentine subway workers end 10-day strike

Wednesday, August 15, 2012    

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BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA - BUENOS Aires metro workers announced Monday a temporary end to a strike that left one million commuters daily stranded without subways for 10 days.

“We have reached an interim agreement” with metro directors, union official Roberto Pianelli announced at a press conference.

The strike — the longest in the nearly 100-year history of the Buenos Aires subway system — had dragged on because the federal government and the city each insist the other is responsible for the underground rail network.

The union representing the Argentine capital’s metro workers originally demanded a 28 per cent pay increase for its roughly 2,500 workers. Metro employees have received a 23 per cent raise in addition to several other demands.

The nation’s annual inflation is up at around 25 per cent, according to independent economists.

“The problem does not end here, because the issue of our salaries has not been solved,” Pianelli said, explaining that the union has suspended the strike “in a gesture to metro riders and workers”.

Buenos Aires has three million inhabitants, but on weekdays, some three million more living in surrounding suburbs come to the city to work.

The metro strike at one point threatened to break out into a political battle between Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri and Argentine President Cristina Kirchner.

Last week, a judge ordered Macri — an opposition politician expected to run for president in 2015 — to negotiate with the subway workers and with private subway operator Metrovias.

Argentina’s federal government said in January it was turning over the management of the metro to the city. But Macri has insisted federal authorities first turn over the funds necessary to improve the system.

He accuses the federal government of encouraging the strike, adding sarcastically that the problem would go away if “I should say I’m not a candidate in 2015”.

Argentina’s transportation minister countered “the problem is the incompetence of the city government”.

The Buenos Aires metro, the oldest in Latin America, spans 56.7 kilometres (35 miles).

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