* Truck owners say union accepted 25.5 percent raise
* Union boss Moyano calls national strike next Wednesday
* Workers want government to reduce income tax burden
* President Fernandez and Moyano at odds over past year
By Helen Popper and Guido Nejamkis
BUENOS AIRES, June 21 Argentina's most powerful
union leader, Hugo Moyano, called off a strike by fuel truckers
on Thursday after securing a pay increase, but announced a
one-day walkout next week to demand that President Cristina
Fernandez cut taxes.
Striking truckers blocked fuel depots and refineries for a
second day on Thursday, sparking shortages at gas stations and
some homes in one of the biggest trade-union challenges to
Fernandez in her five years in office.
Drivers left picket lines after Moyano, head of the CGT
labor federation, agreed to a 25.5 percent pay rise with haulage
company bosses, and local media said fuel supplies should be
back to normal within 48 hours.
However, the truckers are also pushing for Fernandez to
raise the income tax floor as inflation eats into wages.
"We always said that a pay rise wouldn't be enough," said
Pablo Moyano, Hugo Moyano's son and another top leader of the
truckers' union, which is feared for its capacity to bring Latin
America's third-largest economy to a standstill.
"We're going to continue staging surprise strikes in
different sectors until the government changes its policy of
continually cutting into workers' wages," he said.
Hugo Moyano described Fernandez as "arrogant" and called a
national truckers strike and a day of protests for next
Other unions belonging to the CGT said they would also take
The three-day strike by fuel truckers had been due to end at
midday on Friday, by which time many service stations would
likely have run out of automobile fuel.
Fernandez, a combative center-leftist, returned from an
overseas trip early on Wednesday due to the protest.
She deployed military police to guard fuel plants blockaded
by truckers and implemented emergency supply plans in an effort
to avert shortages, a situation not seen since a rebellion by
farmers in 2008.
Moyano used to be a close ally of the president but their
strategic alliance collapsed over the last year.
Loathed by many middle-class Argentines, the burly truck
driver will seek a third term as president of the CGT federation
in an election next month.
Fernandez's administration filed a criminal complaint over
the strike and fined the truckers' union four million pesos
(about $888,000) for defying an order to negotiate.
"This is a humanitarian issue," Planning Minister Julio De
Vido told a news conference before the protest was lifted.
He said whole rural communities had been left without
household gas supplies at the start of the southern hemisphere
winter and said several northern provinces and key highways were
virtually without automobile fuel.
Argentina is one of the world's biggest exporters of grains
and the vast majority of farm goods are sent to port by truck.
Farmers, who are nearing the end of this season's soy and corn
harvest, are also major consumers of fuel.
Annual inflation estimated at about 25 percent is stoking
labor unrest as the economy cools after a long boom.
Surging prices have also fueled capital flight and eroded
the competitiveness of Argentine goods, prompting Fernandez to
slap unorthodox curbs on imports and foreign currency purchases
that are riling importers and the middle class.
The strike also reflected jostling for position within the
CGT federation ahead of next month's leadership elections and
within Fernandez's ruling and fragmented Peronist party,
"There's a struggle going on within Peronism that stems from
the president's strategy to accumulate and concentrate her
personal power since her re-election," said Pascual Albanese of
the Institute of Strategic Planning think-tank.
Fernandez, who won a second term by a landslide in October,
is unable to run again in 2015 unless the constitution is
changed. She controls Congress but might struggle to get the
two-thirds support needed to change the country's charter.
There are signs of a nascent succession struggle in her
party, which has traditionally had close ties with the unions.
That could deepen the conflict with Moyano, who local media
have suggested is forging closer ties with Daniel Scioli, a
moderate Peronist who runs the country's biggest province and is
seen as a potential successor to Fernandez.
"When a conflict has a political objective, it's difficult
to imagine that it won't end up escalating," said local pollster
and analyst Sergio Berensztein.