By Charles Newbery
BUENOS AIRES (AA) - Hundreds of passengers faced delays Friday at airports across Argentina, as a strike by air traffic controllers slowed arrivals and departures.
The workers, part of the Association of State Workers (ATE) union, went on a 48-hour strike early Friday to demand back pay, higher wages job security and to keep their work from being privatized.
Aeropuertos Argentina 2000, a private operator of many of the country’s more than 30 airports, reported arrival and departure delays. Twenty-four domestic and international flights were canceled at the Ezeiza international airport and the Jorge Newbery metropolitan airport in Buenos Aires.
“The conflict is going to continue” if the workers’ demands are not met, Martin Taboada, a delegate of the ATE union, was quoted as saying by the Clarin newspaper.
The Argentine Air Navigation Company, a government agency created earlier this year to coordinate and supervise air travel, said in a statement that the roots of the strike are not workers rights but a power struggle within the union.
“There are delays, but fewer delays than on a day with poor weather problems,” the head of the organization, Agustin Rodriguez Grellet, said on Radio 10. “We’re working so that everything is normal over the next two days.”
He added that most air traffic controllers disagree with the strike.
In response to the comments, Taboada told a cable news broadcaster that while there are some air traffic controllers still on the job, “they are going to stop work soon.”
Worker tension has been on the rise in Argentina, as annual wage negotiations are held with unions. Many unions are demanding hikes of more than 30 percent in wages to protect consumer-spending power as the inflation rate reaches 40 percent and public utility rates rise between 400 to 500 percent.
The conditions are cutting consumer spending and slowing the economy, which is expected to contract by 1 percent this year before recovering in 2017, according to the International Monetary Fund.
Fuel truckers are on the second day of a two-day strike Friday, causing shortages at some service stations.
Argentine President Mauricio Macri, who took office in December, admitted Friday that the transition from 12 years of populist-left politics and a five-year economic stagnation is hitting the pocketbooks of many people.
“I know that this process has not been easy,” the right-of-center politician said during a televised press conference.“We are on the right path,” he said. “In a few years, we will all have more opportunities.”