Solidarity with the petrol workers of Las Heras (Argentina)

Thursday, 02 March 2006
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The heroic mobilisation of the petrol workers of Las Heras (Argentina) lasted for two weeks and has unleashed the fury of the ruling class and its agents in the government, the judiciary, the media and the police. Here we launch a petition for the support committee of these workers in order to collect signatures and solidarity messages in support of their demands. We have also issued a financial appeal for the workers’ strike fund, to help them in their struggle.

Sign the solidarity appeal and send your strike fund donation

The heroic mobilisation of the petrol workers of Las Heras (Santa Cruz province) lasted for two weeks and has unleashed the fury of the ruling class and its agents in the Government, the judiciary, the media and the police. Through direct mass action (strikes, road blockades, demonstrations) they have shown the power of collective action.

Despite the repressive situation they managed to impose, totally or partially, part of their demands: equal pay and conditions for construction sector workers that have joined the petrol industry. These workers do the same work but on lower wages and under poorer working conditions; payment of wages for days lost on strike; commitment of the government to increase in the minimum taxation exemption (currently at 1,800 pesos/month, which is the cost of basic necessities); no dismissals/layoffs as a result of the strike; option of retirement after 25 years of work in the industry, given the unhealthy working conditions and the extremely inhospitable conditions of that area of Argentina; and pensions equivalent to 82 percent of wages adjusted to inflation.

On 10th February, the workers surrounded the police station of Las Heras where Mario Navarro, a workers’ leader, was detained with the intention of leaving the strike leaderless. The police responded with savage repression using tear gas and rubber bullets. The workers denounced the actions of the bosses (the Spanish multinational Repsol). On top of this the trade union bureaucracy shamelessly sided with management and stood against the strike, ignoring the unanimous will of the petrol workers to go on struggle. As a result of all this, a policeman, Jorge Sayago, died. Now the government attributes the responsibility for his death to the workers, something which they strenuously deny.

Now the Kirchner government has sent a large contingent of the Gendarmeria Nacional (one of the most repressive police bodies in Argentina) and dozens of SIDE agents (secret service) to the region.

The workers have denounced the imposition of a state of siege in the area, where they are constantly harassed by the police with threats and coercion. They are not allowed to call meetings as the oil installations have been militarised.

The Las Heras struggle has unmasked the fraud of bourgeois democracy, a veil which hides the violence and the dictatorship of big business. Therefore, we place all the responsibility for the death of the policeman, Sayago, on those who violated the sovereign will of the workers, who demand better living and working conditions – that is the blame lies with the management, the government, the media, the police, the judiciary and the trade union bureaucracy.

We demand the immediate withdrawal of the Gendarmeria and other police forces, who have threatened and humiliated the workers and their families, from the area where a real state of siege has been imposed. Now they are arbitrarily arresting youth and workers simply for participating in the mobilisations. They do this to fulfil their need to present a trophy to their masters, the multinational group Repsol, and their local agents, the big Argentinian capitalists and the bourgeois media.

This dispute goes beyond the oil sector. They want to inflict a defeat on the Santa Cruz oil workers to teach a lesson to the whole of the Argentinean working class, who are massively mobilising to struggle for living wages and decent jobs. Above all, what makes them restless is the fact that the workers have defied the repressive state apparatus, surrounding a police station and liberating an arrested worker. The bosses and the state do not want this example to spread, and as a result they are now demanding revenge.

That is why it is so important that we gather as much international class solidarity with these workers as possible. In Buenos Aires a workers’ support committee has been set up to denounce the repression of the Gendarmeria and the state of siege that has been declared in the town. A strike fund has also been set up to help financially support these workers.

We have launched the following petition for the support committee of the oil workers in Las Heras in order to collect signatures and solidarity messages in support of their demands and against the criminalisation of their struggle. We have also issued a financial appeal for the workers’ strike fund, to help them in their struggle.

Below you will find a model solidarity letter:

SOLIDARITY WITH THE OIL WORKERS OF SANTA CRUZ

We, the undersigned, stand in solidarity with the struggle of the oil workers of Santa Cruz.

We demand the immediate withdrawal of the Gendarmeria Nacional and the police from all the oil producing areas of the province. We demand an immediate end to persecution and criminalisation of the struggle of these workers.

We support their fair demands:

- The payment of wages during the strike

- Trade union recognition for the UOCRA workers (workers coming from construction sector) in the oil sector

- An increase in the mimimum taxation exemption on income

- For retirement after 25 years of work in the industry, irrespective of age and with a pension of 82 per cent of wages subject to inflation

 

Please send your message to the following e-mail addresses:

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Please, also send a copy to the Editorial Board of El Militante:

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Please send your donation to the following bank account of the Shop Stewards’ Committee (Cuerpo de Delegados) of Las Heras:

Name of the bank: Banco Nación

Name of the account: Cuerpo de Delegados de Las Heras

Account number: 011 03289300032802021441


COMMUNIQUÉ OF THE SHOP STEWARDS’ COMMITTEE OF THE OIL WORKERS

Friday, 17th February 2006

FROM LAS HERAS

We denounce as false the statement made by the national authorities about the Gendarmeria not participating in the operation of the checkpoints and searches of the oil workers on their way to the oilfields.

In Las Heras, the Crisis Committee set up by the Gendarmeria and the provincial police, not only carry out these controls jointly but also they also carry them out in the oilfields

In the last hours the Gendarmeria prevented a meeting of the workers of the factory “Argentina 2000” from taking place. This clearly exposes the fact that the presence of the Crisis Committee and the Gendarmeria is in fact to carry out an undeclared state of siege, which has been implemented together with the national and provincial governments.

Our constitutional rights to freedom of movement, right of assembly, right to strike and, even our right to a daily 15-minute assembly, as stated in the collective bargaining agreement, section 396/04, have all been suspended.

In carry out these measures the police and government show their disdain not only for the workers but for the whole population of Las Heras. The Gendarmeria and the provincial police force patrol the fields carrying firearms, something which is specifically forbidden by the safety regulations.

Today, we, the shop stewards, warn that the firearms in the oilfields might provoke explosions which could destroy half of Las Heras. How many deaths will there have to be before they listen to this warning?

We demand:

  1. The immediate restitution of our constitutional rights.

  2. That the security forces be prohibited from accessing the oilfields.

  3. An immediate end to the checkpoints and the searches of the workers and the population.