Strike against Macri paralyzes Argentina; banks and grain affected

BUENOS AIRES (Reuters) – A strike called by Argentina’s largest trade union federation in protest over President Mauricio Macri’s market-friendly economic policies brought the country to a standstill on Monday, freezing grains exports and halting banking and public transit.

The CGT umbrella labor union demanded wage hikes to keep up with inflation rates running at more than 25 percent annually. The group has slammed Macri’s deal with the International Monetary Fund, arguing that austerity measures linked to the agreement would harm workers.

Organizers said they expected at least one million people to participate in the strike, although there were no reliable estimates of how many took part.

In Rosario, a major agricultural exporting region, shipments of grain and other products were halted by protests by unions representing grains crushers and port workers. Argentina is the world’s top exporter of soybean meal and soybean oil, and the No. 3 shipper of raw soybeans and corn.

“We cannot export anything. Regrettably, we will be stopped for the entire day,” said Guillermo Wade, manager of the Chamber of Port and Maritime Activities.

While financial markets remained open, traders reported low volume on Monday since bank workers are also striking.

The strike comes as the run on the peso currency <ARS=RASL> that prompted Argentina to turn to the IMF in May has begun to subside. The currency was stable last week as Argentina received the first $15 billion of the $50 billion stand-by financing arrangement with the Washington, D.C.-based lender.

(Reporting by Nicolas Misculin; Writing by Scott Squires; Editing by Dan Grebler)

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