Photo via Telam

Nearly two months since the beginning of the school year, salary negotiations between teachers unions in the Buenos Aires Province and governor Vidal’s administration have not made any progress. In fact, things have taken a step backward, as the two camps are hardening their measures of force aimed at getting the other to cave.

The latest meeting took place on Friday; the outcome was the same as it has been in the prior six encounters: the Frente de Unidad Docente (FUD) – the coalitions of teachers unions in the Province – rejected a new offer from the provincial government, arguing it is far from meeting their demands. As a result of this, they announced a new strike for Wednesday, April 25, which will include a march to the government house located in the city of La Plata.

The provincial government, on its end, announced it will deduct the day’s payment from the salaries of the teachers who do not go to  that day. Governor Vidal went to Mirtha Legrand’s TV show on Saturday and made a reference to the subject, calling the teachers to not strike on Wednesday, and guaranteeing their salaries’ purchasing power will not lose against the annual inflation rate.

“Regardless of what you might hear, I will fulfill my promise and they will not lose money, even if there are union leaders who want to turn this into a political affair,” she said. Vidal went on to argue that it is impossible for her administration to pay more than what they are already offering, because that would mean the need to deepen the fiscal deficit, something they are not willing to do: “I want teachers to earn more, but they would have to tell us where to get the money from, what we should stop [spending part of the budget on],” she added.

In contrast, representatives of the FUD argued that Vidal is the one who “has made the political decision to stall negotiations and impose a ceiling to the negotiations.”

“We are in April and our salaries are frozen [they have not increased since last year] but the utility bills are not,” said SUTEBA member Silvia Almazán in an interview with NA.

In the last meeting, the provincial government made a proposal that was different to the previous ones. It offered a 10 percent increase for the first semester – to be paid in three installments – and a AR $3,000 bonus for those who don’t miss any school days.

The increase for the second semester would continue to be discussed, but an agreement regarding the first half of the year would ensure there would not be strikes until at least July. However, the FUD rejected the offer arguing it was actually lower than the ones under the previous scheme. “It would grant us an eight percent increase by May. Had we accepted the last offer, we would have seen an 11 percent increase by this time of the year,” Almazán added.

Regardless of the inability to reach an agreement, the provincial government has already implemented an eight percent increase on the teachers’ salaries.

The last strike took place on April 5.