University teaching unions are due to march today, beginning outside Congress at 5pm and continuing along Callao up to the intersection with Paraguay. Lecturers’ unions involved include CONADU, CONADU Histórica, FEDUN (Federación de Docentes de las Universidades) and FAGDUT (Asociación Gremial de Docentes de la Universidad Tecnológica Nacional), each of which will have a speaker at the march today. This protest comes following six wage negotiation meetings in which the government refused to make significant change to their proposals, never offering above a 20 percent increase despite the unions calling for 35 percent. Many universities have experienced weeks of strikes, and those involved are hoping that today’s march will be enough to change the minds of the Education Ministry who have until now been so steadfast.
“There is a disciplinary objective in this behavior from the Government. They want to move higher education to the private sector and introduce, in what little remains of public university, market logic,” according to Carlos De Feo, Secretary General of CONADU.
The protest also has the support of many students, with the student association FUA expected to make an appearance and read a statement during today’s events. President of FUA Josefina Mendoza said: “The objective is to back up the lecturers’ demands, above all with respect to resolving their salaries. The student movement must show strength and presence, and also our support.”
It’s not only public university workers taking part in the strike action. The private university teachers’ union SADOP (Sindicato Argentino de Docentes Privados) will also be present, as well as teachers from university-preparatory schools in unions UDA, CTERA and ADEMYS. State workers of ATE and scientists will be joining the action as well.
The relationship many scientists have with the government is currently perhaps as complicated as that of the lecturers, and the situations are linked. The government’s decision to put less money into academia is not only affecting the teaching staff of universities but also the research side: since December 2015 there have been massive cuts to CONICET, Argentina’s leading scientific funding and research body. CONICET has been forced to cut the number of scientists conducting research projects by 60% since December last year, and many scientists have been denied research projects despite having already qualified for them. This situation has resulted in protests from the scientific community. The government has recently tried to alleviate this situation by promising 410 new teaching posts for scientists denied their research projects, therefore not putting them out of a job, but given the current situation for state-employed university staff this might not be much of a comfort. In this climate, the difference between being a university lecturer and a researcher might only be as much as where you stand in a protest and which banner you hold.