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Argentine labor unions block part of President Milei’s reforms

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Milei is beginning to have problems with the judicial and constitutional authorities in Argentina. The labor court blocked an essential part of DNU 70/223, the reform decree sought by the newly prisedente, on the part dealing with union activities and, more specifically, withholding union dues directly from paychecks. Milei provided for the elimination of direct withholding of union dues, so members would have to pay dues to the associations themselves. Instead, the court found that the continuation of the withholding system was legitimate following an appeal by the unions.

The president’s party stressed Wednesday that the state bar has not yet been informed — the court has 3 days to complete the procedure — but that once the file is received, the lack of jurisdiction of the labor court will be requested “immediately,” including as a matter of precautionary nature in the application of the decree.

The executive challenged the resolution because it “contradicts” other court rulings on the said decree and said it would have a “political context” that would seek to cripple reforms promoted by the current administration with the aim of deregulating the economy and other activities.

Now the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Treasury, headed by Rodolfo Barra, will rule on the matter and appeal the ruling of the Labor Appeals Chamber. So, for the government, it is up to the administrative judiciary, not the labor judiciary, to rule on the matter, and the government is obviously confident that this is much closer to government positions than a multiplicity of labor courts. The previous government appointed these judges, and so they are very sensible to the trade unions’ reasons. The then-government officials accused these courts of making decisions based on political rather than legal factors.

Without wishing to delve too deeply into the intricacies of Argentina’s legal system, this event shows how Milei will face much tougher opposition rooted in the powers of the state than he probably thought. While it is relatively easy to write a decree, it is much more complicated to get the often biased judges not to interpret it in their own way, even by forcing and blocking it. In Italy, we are experts in this matter, given the extreme level of independence of our judicial system.

These remedies will block Milei’s government action, and time is ticking for the president. Argentina is now feeling only the bitterness of Milei’s work, and if dessert does not come within a few months, there is a serious risk that citizens will get tired and want, again, to change their tune. Not least because, in any case, inflation in January alone is expected to be 20 percent.

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