At the beginning of the ‘90s, the hotel started to see changes: the business “outfitted the fourth floor of the hotel with offices for rent, to attract Chilean executives coming to do business. And the auditoriums of the hotel were transformed into the site of political meetings of every stripe.”1 The Iurcoviches’ Bauen was, according to researcher Alberto Bonnet,2 one of the places where Menem materialized his frivilous and consumerist ideology: “The nocturnal scenes of meetings in the fashionable nightclubs and restaurants—New York City, Trump’s, El Cielo, Hippopotamus, Fechoría —in the most exclusive five-star suites of the Alvear or Bauen hotels,” are among the elements that he points out were part of the Menemist cultural climate during his time in power in the ’90s.
Arminda left the hotel in 1983, but returned ten years later, still under the Iurcoviches as bosses. As was to be expected, those ten years outside of the establishment caused her to lose seniority. But, her co-workers who had stayed at the BAUEN would share the same fate. The business soon would begin to take evasive maneuvers against its social security obligations, which is a standard part of asset stripping. María Eva Lossada, hotel worker and, as of the date of this publication, chairwoman of the BAUEN cooperative, tells how since the middle of the ’90s, “there were changes to the registered name to evade taxes and avoid paying seniority, social expenses, and vacations for the staff.” Her arrival at the hotel in 1994 was marked by a fact that impacted her on her first workday: “there was a group of people that had been fired, around twenty, and they were gathered in the doorway of the hotel.” As a punitive warning, making the replacements enter with the fired workers in full view was no small thing.
In María Eva, however, the result was not what the bosses expected.
The pressure on workers becomes more and more intense. As with the entire labor market at the time, conditions in the hotel and food industries were ripe for deteriorating standards and labor precarity. Workers had to accept whatever came their way, María Eva continues, “because, like he said, ‘there are 50 people outside waiting to replace you.’
They also started to outsource activities.” The number of workers was reduced to “a handful of 70 people who belonged to the hotel,” and the rest of the employees started to be assigned to outsourced areas, like “the laundry, the public areas, the bar – the majority belonged to other management.” Iurcovich applied the manual on creating precarity to the letter, expelling workers, taking on new ones in worse conditions, changing the registered name to avoid the accumulation of seniority, and outsourcing divisions to move employees from the hotel payroll to working for contractors who were really subsidiaries of their own business group (see sidebar).
- “Chilean businessmen bought the hotel Bauen,” in daily Clarín, 13 of March of 1997. Recovered from https://www.clarin.com/economia/empresarios-chilenos-compraron-hotel-bauen_0_HkWOfWAKl.html↩
- Alberto Bonnet, The Menemist hegemony: neo-conservatism in Argentina, 1989-2001. Bs. As.: Prometheus books, 1997.↩