Union leader criticizes Argentine government

December 15, 2011 - 9:55 PM

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — A top union leader who has been a strong ally of Argentina's government is taking an increasingly critical line, and the conflict could have political costs for President Cristina Fernandez.

Union leader Hugo Moyano said Thursday that Argentine workers will keep pressing for wages that they feel they deserve. He also issued a warning to Fernandez, saying that more than half of her votes in her re-election victory in October came thanks to union workers.

Moyano said in a speech that he is resigning his posts within Fernandez's party as interim president in the province of Buenos Aires and as a national vice president.

"I'm quitting my posts, but not the struggle," Moyano said, paraphrasing Eva Peron, the wife of former President Juan Domingo Peron. "We're going to rebuild Peronism."

He accused Fernandez's party of straying from the values of Peron.

Moyano, who spoke at a soccer stadium flanked by leaders of various union groups, questioned Fernandez for her criticisms of union stances during her Dec. 10 inauguration speech. Fernandez said then that "there is a right to strike, but not to blackmail nor to extort."

Moyano heads the General Labor Confederation, the largest union group in the country. He had smoother relations with Fernandez's husband and predecessor as president, Nestor Kirchner, who died last year.

Tensions between the government and unions have grown as the government has sought to show greater restraint in public spending with an eye to shielding Argentina's finances from world economic woes.

The government has sought to limit wage increases. Union leaders say they are concerned those limits are far below inflation. Private economists say prices are rising at an annual rate of at least 27 percent, while the government insists inflation is about one-third that.

Moyano's labor group has said there should be no ceiling in wage talks. The union leader has also said soaring inflation is a major problem.