Argentina's bloated public payroll a thorn in Macri's side

miércoles 9 de diciembre de 2015 11:47 GYT

By Sarah Marsh

BUENOS AIRES Dec 9 (Reuters) - Roberto Sanchez faced death threats, tire-burning protesters and a siege of his town hall last month after taking power as mayor in a backwater town in northern Argentina and vowing to reduce the bloated public sector work force.

Voted in on a ticket for the center-right "Let's Change" alliance of President-elect Mauricio Macri, Sanchez opened the books to discover the ruling Peronist party mayor he replaced had dished out hundreds of jobs and inflated the wage bill.

In the six months running up to the August election in Concepcion, a town of 65,000 people surrounded by potato and sugarcane fields, and even after the vote, the public sector permanent staff payroll rocketed to over 1,000 from around 650.

When Sanchez announced a review, unruly street protests erupted, forcing the 49-year-old-mayor to barricade himself inside his town hall overnight. His wife rang him up crying as a group of protesters arrived at their family home, where she was trapped with their three children.

"They threw giant firecrackers and burnt big truck wheels in the door of the town hall," said Sanchez. "We couldn't leave the building, we only managed to escape at 3 p.m. the next day."

Forced to compromise, Sanchez agreed to keep 110 of the new hires.

The episode underscores the challenges Macri could face nationwide as he seeks to lower public spending in order to tame the fiscal deficit.

Argentines are used to generous state jobs and benefits and efforts to cut back could bring workers onto the streets.   Continuación...