Labour, Extractive Neoliberalism and an Unattainable Just Transition: Trade Unions and Argentina’s Energy Paths

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 12:50
Oral Presentation
With recent experiences by left-of-the-centre governments in many Latin American countries a debate erupted within social justice movements, including trade unions: does the more equalitarian redistribution of resources justify the socio-environmental impacts of the extractive energy path? For the most part, the trade union movement in Latin America answered positively to this question, arguing that in order to overcome poverty and inequality development was a necessary ‘evil’. Unions that had allied themselves with social, and environmental, movements during the struggles against the Free Trade Area of the Americas were now at odds with many of those same movements. Argentina provides a case example of these challenges when the energy model remains extractive in nature, but the distribution moves from developmentalism to neoliberalism.

The limitations and contradictions of what has been deemed a ‘commodity consensus’ became evident with the slow-down of economic growth, the growing protest of social movements and communities directly affected by those movements, as well as the dependant nature of the development model which reinforced the role of multinational corporations and finance over State-led strategies.

This paper provides an overview of trade union standpoints in Argentina on energy and environmental justice issues at different points in the recent decade. The paper explores the changes in the narrative of the trade union movement as political changes took place and a right-wing government came to power from 2015 onwards. The ‘green agenda’ presented in Argentina by the current government represents a central debate for trade unions as they reposition themselves in the face of new adversities.