Argentina Update: Workers Strike for Higher Wages, Government Looks to Expand Food Price Controls

February 25, 2021

Argentinian vegetable oil workers successfully conducted a 21-day national strike that has resulted in a 35 percent wage increase for all workers in a major victory for unions in the country.  The victory comes amidst economic turmoil in the country as the government stepped up price controls on some foods.   

More than 20,000 workers will receive the wage increase, which was the culmination of the country’s largest national strike of the year. Argentina is one the world’s largest suppliers of vegetable oil and seeds, mainly to the United States, China, and Brazil. Vegetable oil workers were deemed “essential” workers and had not stopped working since the pandemic began. Meanwhile, management delayed annual mid-year wage bargaining which was set to take place last April. 

The vegetable oil workers campaigned for a livable minimum wage, which is guaranteed by the Argentinian constitution. Three different unions combined to engage in a three-week long strike that cost companies roughly $100 million day. The vegetable oil workers were joined by dock workers in a solidarity strike that lasted 36 hours on its own. Organized labor used a coordinated strategy to mobilize thousands of workers across the country that pushed management towards the 35 percent wage increase, showcasing the potential power of a unified union front.
 
Meanwhile, the Argentinian government stepped up its price control efforts on the nation’s food industry. The government announced this week that it was investigating several companies, including Unilever, Danone, and Procter & Gamble for allegedly reducing output in violation of regulations requiring operation at full capacity. Argentina has introduced strict price freezes and controls to keep supermarket shelves stocked and stem rising inflation in food prices.

The measures are part of the government’s increasing encroachment into the private sector, which has included banning exports, import restrictions, currency controls, and forced sharp price decreases. This increasingly anti-business climate has caused many companies to cease doing business in Argentina, including Walmart, which left in November after 25 years in the country.