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Argentina: 30,000 Health professionals strike

22 March 2019
Health professionals in Argentina demonstrate against budget cuts in the health service.
The Trade Union Federation of Health Professionals of Argentina (FeSProSa) organised a two-day strike on 6-7 March “against adjustment and dismissals”. Nearly 30,000 doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other professionals downed tools in over 600 health facilities across the country.

In a press statement, the union said, “We are committed to fighting for dignified health for the most vulnerable sectors of society, a fight that goes hand in hand with decent wages and infrastructure conditions.”.

The government’s refusal to enter a collective bargaining agreement that would improve working conditions for health and social workers is only part of its renewed attacks on working conditions and the labour movement. And to rub salt on an open wound, the government dismissed workers at the largest health facility in the country, the Posadas Hospital in Buenos Aires. This is in line with its programme of downsizing the public sector workforce, since 2016. Such layoffs (and pay cuts) have been more aggressive in the last few months.

The health workers’ strike represents resistance to attacks on the public health system and the public sector in general. Neoliberal policies of the government, under the direction of international financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund (IMF) pose grave danger to the people of Argentina. FeSProSa’s struggle, in conjunction with a broad array of unions and civil society organisations, draws the attention of the world to this danger.

Public health funding has witnessed a series of sharp  cuts over the last year, while military expenditure continued to soar. This bad situation became worse with the government’s austerity budget for 2019, which slashes social spending by 35%. Immediately this was adopted by the Senate in November 2018, unions and civil society organisations organised demonstrations against austerity measures. But these were to no avail.

IMF conditionalities for a $57.1 billion credit facility in total are at the root of the ongoing social crisis. The budget of austerity is designed for an IMF deal. Two months before the budget was signed, global health activists took to the streets in Washington, DC to highlight the looming health crisis facing the people of Argentina, with the strict targets set by the IMF in its conditionalities.

The impact of austerity measures, including salary “adjustments” and layoffs of staff, on the Argentine health system is severe and will be long-lasting. The struggle of FeSProSa is as much for the millions of Argentinians who benefit from public health as it is for members of the union.

PSI has consistently argued against how IMF conditionalities constrict social funding, to the detriment of the people. We condemn the regime of fiscal consolidation the IMF has foisted on Argentina. There is also the need for the Argentine government to get its priorities right. Health and social services, not the military, deserve primacy of government funding, if the people are actually at the centre of development and the political system is democratic.

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