Solidarity with the workers of Garrahan, a hospital in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Last Thursday we published material in Spanish about the struggle of the Garrahan hospital workers in Argentina. We are publishing some of that material today in English. 

The struggle must be spread to and unified with all the sectors that are in conflict.

The struggle of the workers of the Garrahan Hospital, like that of the Subte (metro system) some months ago, has been transformed into a focal point for the whole of the Argentinean working class.

The management of the hospital and representatives of the government have tried everything to break the willingness of the workers to fight: insults, intimidation, lies and threats such as giving the workers 24 hours to stop the strike or face the sack.

The government and the media say they are now shocked by the damage being done to the patients as a result of the action being taken by the workers. Before the action however they did not seemed worried at all by the day to day problems and deficiencies in the hospital sector: the lack of supplies of every sort in the hospitals and health centres; the thirteen years of wage freeze that the professionals and workers have endured. And all because the government would rather pay thousands of millions of dollars servicing the public debt instead of spending this money to provide social spending on health, education, the infrastructure, the working class districts and other areas.

On the one hand it seems to be reasonable for members of the Board of Directors of the hospital to receive rises of up to 40% so that the directors are on $8000 per month, but on the other hand the wage claim of the workers for $1800 is called “excessive”, yet this salary is only equivalent to the family shopping basket, the minimum that a family needs to survive, and should be the average salary that any worker should get irrespective of the sector that he or she works in.

The government and the management of the hospital say that there are political motives behind the conflict. That is true. But these motives do not come from the side of the workers but rather from the government and the management of the hospital.

They are afraid that the conflict at Garrahan will be transformed into a test case that will encourage the rest of the public sector workers to break the wage limit imposed on them by the government so that the public debt can be paid as well as public subsidies running into many millions can be paid to the banks and private companies.

It is also in the interests of the government to break the struggle in order to remove the new fighting trade union leadership that is appearing and which is opposed to the present bureaucratic trade union leadership in the CGT and CTA which controls the labour movement.

If this were not the case then we do not understand how is it that the workers in the Posadas Hospital were able to achieve a wage claim for a basic monthly wage of $1800, but the same basic wage has been denied to the workers in Garrahan.

By its actions the Kirchner government has once again exposed its links with the bosses and its defence of their interests. In this sense it is also no accident that the rest of the bourgeois political leaders opposed to Kirchner (from Lopez Murphy and Macri to even Carrio, including Menem, Sobisch and Duhalde) have sided with the government saying that the workers are irresponsible and some of them have even demanded “the hard hand”.

For these reasons it is vital to build maximum solidarity with the struggle in Garrahan. At each stage of the struggle it is even more important to spread the conflict to other areas of health and public services that are in struggle at this moment in order to avoid isolation, looking at ways of organising joint strikes and mobilisations on the same day, at the same time, organising joint marches, taking the conflict from within the hospital out onto the street.

Those who should be organising this are the ATE leadership nationally and in the capital, but unfortunately these seem to be more interested in a trade union policy of pacts and consensus politics with the civil service instead of putting themselves at the disposal of the workers in order to fight for their interests.

That is why the Internal Committee of ATE in Garrahan, as it has begun to do, should continue with its efforts to convene all the sectors in struggle to unite them in a common fight in order to bend the arm of the government until the complaints of the workers have been dealt with satisfactorily.