Argentine Educators Strike, Massive Protests Thursday

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Argentine educators are again going on strike to protest what they say are low salaries and refuse the government’s offer at a raise.

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On Monday teachers in the Buenos Aires province announced they will start a three-day strike on Tuesday after salary negotiations between the government and teachers’ unions broke down last week.

The Buenos Aires government under conservative governor Maria Eugenia Vidal offered to raise salaries by just over 20 percent until September and to re-negotiate terms in October. Unions refused the offer and continued to demand a 30 percent raise to compensate for the country’s skyrocketing inflation and devalued peso. They also want contracts to include a trigger clause that ensures that future salaries keep pace with inflation.

Argentina’s inflation rate hovered around 25 percent between September 2017 and April of this year, then shot up 31.5 percent by July where it remains. The peso has devalued to 31 to the U.S. dollar.  

"They always want to impose a downward trend," general secretary of the Unified Syndicate of Education Workers of Buenos Aires (Suteba) union, Roberto Baradel told the press Monday morning. "They want to lower wages, there is no doubt about that. It’s a lie that they do not have money." The longtime leader Baradel demanded that Vidal "react" to teachers’ demands.

The 72-hour strike is set to end on Thursday followed by massive educators strike to take place across the country along with university professors.

This teacher work stoppage is the latest in a series of strikes this school year. Teachers boycotted the first two days of the 2018-2019 year in March demanding a 24 percent raise. The government offered 15. Since then Buenos Aires teachers have struck a total of 14 days while rejecting nine government pay proposals insisting that Vidal’s Cambiemos party agree to their demands.

Education strikes at the university level in Argentina are also happening. Many college professors have been on strike since August 3 and say they will continue if the government doesn’t meet their demand for a 30 percent raise.   

For nearly four weeks university professors have been on strike negotiating with the national government for the same 30 percent raise and trigger clause.

For the first time in months of negotiations, Minister of Education Alejandro Finocchiaro was present at the negotiating table last week and once again offered a 15 percent salary increase. While educators aren’t yet happy with the amount they were encouraged by Finocchiaro’s appearance at the meeting.

"The numbers are the same but the proposal is qualitatively different. The meeting showed that thanks to the teachers’ struggle relations have changed. The presence of Finocchiaro reflects the degree of conflict in universities," Veronica Bethencourt, general secretary of the Conadu university union told Clarin on Monday. Bethencourt was optimistic that unions would see a government offer that exceeds 15 percent.

Minister Finocchiaro told the press that "unions understood that there are economic problems and that within that context the greatest effort will be made" for a concession. The two sides will meet again to negotiate on Wednesday before the August 30 march.

Bethencourt added: "The change in negotiation has to do with the depth of struggle that we have deployed over the past weeks. We must continue to talk and convene in a huge National University March on August 30." Professors held their largest demonstration in over 12 years last May demanding higher wages.

Over the past several weeks, professors have been holding classes in public spaces to make their demands more visible. Last Friday over 70 lectures were held in the Buenos Aires Plaza de Mayo.



Source

Latin America News

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