Argentine president suffers first setback in congress

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Buenos Aires (AFP)

Argentine lawmakers handed conservative President Mauricio Macri his first legislative setback Thursday by passing a law aiming to curb job cuts that he says are needed to strengthen the economy.

Macri has vowed to veto the reform, definitively approved by the opposition-controlled lower house of congress early on Thursday morning after a long debate.

The reform allows laid-off workers to appeal for reinstatement or double compensation for the next six months.

Macri has been rolling back the policies of his leftist predecessors since he took office in December.

He has vowed to bring down Argentina's soaring inflation rate and create jobs in Latin America's third-biggest economy.

Critics say his public job cuts and utility price hikes are increasing hardship for working families.

His government rejected Thursday's reform.

"We do not think this legal instrument helps workers," said Macri's chief of staff, Marcos Pena.

Labor unions say 155,000 workers have lost their jobs in the public and private sectors since Macri took office.

The government says it laid off 11,000 public workers in the first quarter of this year.

Macri was expected to announce his veto promptly. Some union leaders have threatened to call a general strike if he does so.

"It would be a terrible political mistake if Mauricio Macri vetoed this law," said opposition deputy Jorge Taboada.

"He is ignoring the workers and a situation that his cuts have created."