Strike By 2,400 Bank Workers Continues
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) _ Drinking black coffee, 2,400 bank clerks and officers on Friday continued occupying their offices two days after the Central Bank closed six banks for alleged financial mismanagement.
About 300 strikers held an afternoon sitdown demonstration at a busy intersection, interrupting traffic and shouting, ″We want our jobs 3/8″
Police did not intervene and after several minutes the demonstrators marched to the Labor Ministry to press for job guarantees.
Many of the striking workers slept overnight on beds made from office furniture while others used bank computers to print angry slogans denouncing the bank owners and the government’s Central Bank.
″These are the cadavers of our financial fatherland,″ said one printout, showing six coffins with the names of the closed banks on them.
Banners saying ″Guelar Thief 3/8″ were strung across the front of Banco Del Oeste, the largest of the banks closed with $55 million in assets but losses of up to $100 million. Its president, Guido F. Guelar, has fled the country.
The striking, unionized workers are seeking a guarantee from the government that their jobs will be assured once the assets of the closed private banks are assumed by other financial institutions.
Central Bank officials have promised to sell the closed bank’s assets within 30 days, but most analysts are skeptical any lending institutions are in financial condition to afford such a measure.
The closed banks, all based in Buenos Aires, range from the 16th largest in the nation to 155th in deposits. The deposits are guaranteed under law, so there has been little panic by depositors or by the Buenos Aires stock market.
The Banking Association, made up of unionized bank workers, said it will continue its strike action indefinitedly by occupying the offices until the 2,400 affected workers are guaranteed their jobs.
Central Bank President Jose Luis Machinea said the closures were required because of ″the calamitous situation″ and ″fraudulent administration ″ by bank managements.
The other closed banks are Banco Del Argenfe, Banco de Credito Rural Argentino, Banco Del Iguazu, Banco de Cooperativo Rural Limitado, and Banco de Libertadores Cooperativo Limitado.
Banking Association spokesman Juan Jose Zanella said the occupations will continue ″passively and peacefully in the (112) banks and branch offices.″
No violence has been reported during the occupations.
Meanwhile, the Central Bank on Friday for the third time this week devalued the Argentine currency, dropping the value of the austral to the U.S. dollar by 1.49 percent. It was the 10th devaluation this month, totaling 14.32 percent.
Inflation has reached 126 percent over the last 12 months, triple the government estimates.
Workers’ real wages have fallen 20 percent since 1983 when Raul Alfonsin was elected president to replace the military dictatorships that ruled for more than seven years.
Under the new exchange rate the official exchange is 2.565 australs to sell one U.S. dollar and 2.605 australs to buy a dollar. On the parallel market the dollar closed Friday at 3.58 australs.