Buenos Aires Province Governor María Eugenia Vidal in a meeting with representatives of the major teachers' unions in La Plata in 2016.

Almost two months into the fight, the María Eugenia Vidal administration and the province’s teachers unions still seem pretty far from finding middle ground in their conflict over this year’s salary increases. So the judge in charge of ruling over the many charges they are pressing against each other decided to start doing it for them.

In a ruling issued yesterday, Judge María Ventura determined that the Buenos Aires government must give back the money they deducted from the salaries of the teachers who have been consistently striking ever since the school year began in March. But at the same time, she ordered teachers to respect the wage negotiations and refrain from striking or conduct any other kind of protest for at least 30 days.

However, regardless of the judge’s intentions, there’s a chasm between what each camp is stipulating. On April 17, during their last official meeting, government representatives and union leaders failed to reach a salary agreement and decided to take a break. The date for the next meeting still hasn’t been set.

Back then, government authorities made a salary proposal pertaining to this year, and the following two as well, in an attempt to give the teachers a degree of “stability.” For 2016, they offered a 20 percent salary increase, a bonus for attendance that could reach a yearly sum of AR $5,300 for those who don’t miss a day, and a one-time bonus of AR $750 per shift — teachers’ shifts last four hours, and because of that most work two — to compensate for their salaries’ loss of purchasing power during last year.

The offer also included a so-called “trigger clause,” which would kick in if this year’s inflation rate surpasses the salary increase accepted by unions. As for the next two years, the María Eugenia Vidal administration made an offer that would exceed the year’s inflation rate by 10 percent, whatever it may be. As for the attendance bonus, it would amount to AR $20,000 per year in 2018 and AR $32,000 in 2019.

Union representatives, however, rejected the offer and saying the increase was too small. “We don’t understand how the provincial government and the [national] government continue to stall and fail to solve the problem, they are not discussing [the issue] seriously. It’s not a step forward, in any way, it’s just another step in their strategy of not modifying their initial proposal, as the one or two percent increase they offered was modified by reality itself,” said union leader Roberto Baradel.

Further developments are only expected as soon as May 5, once unions take down the mobile school they set outside the national Congress.