Buenos Aires subways reopen after 10-day strike

August 14, 2012 - 11:38 AM
Argentina Subway Strike

Cars jam one of the main highway entering the city as subway workers enter their 10th straight day of strike in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Monday, Aug. 13, 2012. A million commuters are caught in the middle of a power struggle between President Cristina Fernandez and Buenos Aires' Mayor Mauricio Macri. The strike began Aug. 3 with workers demanding a 28 percent pay increase to match inflation. (AP Photo/Eduardo Di Baia)

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Subways began rolling again Tuesday in Argentina's capital after union leaders suspended a 10-day strike, but their tentative deal depends on an unresolved power struggle between the mayor and the president.

Union leaders agreed to put their strike on hold after the system's operator, Metrovias, agreed to a 23 percent pay hike along with vacation days and other benefits. Some of the workers still want a 28 percent increase to keep up with Argentina's inflation.

"We're not happy, just relieved," said Roberto Pianelli, who leads a group of workers known as the "metrodelegates" that took over the empty trains and refused to go along with a deal reached days earlier by the main subway union.

The deal signed late Monday got the trains rolling again, but the company said it can't keep its promises without millions more in government subsidies. And that can't happen until President Cristina Fernandez and Mayor Mauricio Macri resolve who's running the system.

Both governments agreed in January to hand control from the nation to the city, but Macri quickly backed out. The mayor said Fernandez failed to provide the financing she promised. The president said the money is already in the bank, waiting for the city to take it.

Every detail of their power struggle has been hotly disputed since then in media campaigns aimed at inflicting maximum political damage on each other.

While Fernandez said the mayor is failing to shoulder his responsibilities, Macri said he won't accept a transfer that ends up robbing the city of its financial and thus political independence from the national government.

Subway fares have been kept low by the national government in exchange for huge subsidies, and it's been years since the system generated enough cash to cover its operating costs, let alone needed investments in new cars and other infrastructure.

After 10 days of waiting for overcrowded buses, nearly a million commuters were just thankful to ride subways to work Tuesday.