With Norberto Latorre, of UTHGRA

Food Service Workers Ready to Fight

Almost 100 thousand workers in the sector are still under-registered or directly unregistered. The Union of Tourism, Hotel and Food Service Workers of Argentina (UTHGRA) has been engaging in a long and intense dialogue with employers to put an end to this “denial of the human condition.” Patience, however, has its limits.


-According to the data available, food service and hotel activities in Argentina are undergoing a perceptible recovery. If there’s no crisis in the sector, why, then, have you come to this situation of conflict?

-According to the government’s own statistics, 56.7% of workers are not registered, and in our sector it is estimated that this situation involves 40% of the workers, that is, some 100 thousand individuals. These people are living as pariahs, because they have no health insurance, neither for themselves nor for their family, and much less retirement benefits. In the future, when it comes time for them to retire, their income will be so meager that they won’t even have enough to survive on. One of the forms of evasion used by employers is to put men and women workers down in the payroll with four-hour workdays, when they actually work 12 and even 14 hours. Employers take advantage of the situation, speculating with tips, and paying the difference on the side. We have identified several establishments that are committing such illegal practices.


Moreover, and just like other trade unions, we are seeking to obtain a wage readjustment, because we consider that our activity currently admits a salary increase, in view of the obvious upturn. According to figures used by business operators themselves, tourism activities in Argentina represent 7% of GDP, that is, more than 9 billion dollars, while the minimum wage for a worker of the sector is barely 200 dollars. We think that’s a disgrace, a denial of the human condition.


-What measures were taken before the current tension arose?

-We have engaged in extensive dialogues, both in the presence of the Ministry of Labor and privately with all the employers, but we have exhausted every possibility of dialogue. Now we have launched a plan of struggle that began today with the publication of a paid-for ad in the national press where we explain our position, and which will continue with mobilizations, the first of which will be in the Federal Capital and will consist of a march to the Business Chamber. The date will be determined tonight (Monday the 7th), and after that we’ll march to the National Business Federation. Afterwards we will continue to carry out measures of force, with surprise stoppages in the establishments that are not complying with the law and exploit workers by not registering them. We will conduct demonstrations, “escraches” (popular exposures of infringers), and work stoppages, calling the media, to publicly single them out as evaders and exploiters. And so on, putting increasing pressure, until we reach an agreement, and if that fails, we will launch a countrywide stoppage with mobilization.


-Is the number of unregistered workers growing?

-We think it is. In this last year, we’ve incorporated 35 thousand new workers, and we think that these are the ones that have moved out of an irregular state. But many continue to be in this situation of utter defenselessness, at the mercy of evading employers. We believe the time has come to take action. And that’s what we’ll do. This will continue to evolve daily, until our demands are met.



Interview by Carlos Amorín

© Rel-UITA

November 10, 2005


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