Latin America & Caribbean

Argentina strike: Transport hit by second major walkout

A pedestrian crosses an empty street during a 24-hour nationwide general strike Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Bus stops and train stations in Buenos Aires were left empty as workers went on strike

A major transport strike in Argentina has brought parts of the country to a standstill as unions protest against high taxes and inflation.

The 24-hour walkout - the second in three months - affects bus, train, plane and underground services.

Swathes of the capital Buenos Aires ground to a halt after people were unable to reach their jobs.

The country's powerful transport unions are unhappy with the income tax floor and high inflation in the country.

Strikers set up roadblocks on Tuesday morning on the main roads leading into Buenos Aires, closing the city's Pueyrredon Bridge.

With people unable to access parts of the city or use public transport, many businesses and schools were forced to close.

All domestic flights and some international flights were cancelled.

Tuesday's strike also disrupted waste collection, freight transport and port activity after a number of smaller unions joined the protest.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Other municipal workers staged a walkout, including rubbish collectors

The three transport unions are protesting against a bid by the government of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner to cap salary increases at 27%, complaining that the figure does not match the forecast 30% inflation expected this year.

They are also calling for tax cuts as they say the threshold salary subjected to income tax has not been updated to keep pace with inflation, hitting lower earners.

Official figures put inflation in Argentina last year at 24%, but private estimates reckon it was closer to 40%. On Friday the value of the Argentine peso declined to a record low of nine per US dollar.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Pueyrredon bridge in Buenos Aires stood empty after being blocked by demonstrators

Juan Carlos Schmid, head of Argentina's dredging workers union, said the strike would send a "strong signal" to the government that takes power after December's general elections

Anibal Fernandez, the government's cabinet chief, called the walkout a "political strike designed to generate confusion."

"They are obstructing people who want to go to work, the vast majority of the population," he said.

The trade union movement in Argentina is divided into those who back the government of President Fernandez and those who think it is not doing enough to help workers.

The transport unions - among the most powerful labour unions in the country - are divided among themselves over support of the government.

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