Photo via TV Mundus

María Eugenia Vidal’s government in the Buenos Aires province is currently fighting several battlefronts with state workers and, as wage negotiations drag on in relevant areas of the public sectors, unions continue to take action in an attempt to have their demands met. The latest to do so are public teachers – supported by other sectors – and bankers working for the state-run Banco Provincia.

Teachers (Supported by Other Public Sector Unions)

As they had announced last week, the largest teachers unions in the province – grouped under the Frente de Unidad Docente (FUD) umbrella union – are striking today. Combined, the unions comprising the FUD have 282,000 members. They used to be more, but teachers’ unions UDA and AMET left the coalition during this year’s negotiations. Private school teachers are striking today as well.

In its last meeting with FUD representatives, the Vidal administration stuck to its offer of a 15 percent salary increase. But it did offer a new annual bonus, this time for “didactic (AKA educational) material,” of AR $2,520.

This would be the third annual bonus that the administration would pay teachers, considering the two previous offers of one of AR $3,000 for taking training courses, and one of up to AR $6,000 – to be paid in bi-monthly installments – for those who don’t miss days of class, in an effort to fight absenteeism.

This bonus would be reduced to AR $4,500 for those who have four absences or less, and AR $3,000 for those who have between five and eight. Representatives of the Vidal government assure that taking these sums into account, the salary increase reaches 18.3 percent.

However, the unions again rejected the proposal, arguing that the provincial government is knowingly offering them an increase that reduces their salaries’ purchasing power. Suteba union Secretary General, Roberto Baradel, said the bonus for educational material would actually represent an AR $80 pesos monthly increase. “It’s shameful. I would like for Vidal to actually visit schools, not just for a photo shoot,” he said.

In a press conference held yesterday, Vidal said her administration will seek to “open all schools and that all its cafeterias will be available” for children to attend. Moreover, she announced a unilateral, partial five percent increase for teachers, so their salaries start catching up with this years inflation. “Teachers can’t keep waiting while we argue about the annual increase. They haven’t gotten a raise since December,” she said.

In the first two months of the year, the inflation rate reached 4.2 percent, and it’s expected to have another substantial raise in March’s report, to be published by the Indec statistics agency in the following days.

Moreover, Vidal highlighted having reached agreements with more than half of her administration’s public employees who are not teachers, who accepted an offer of a 15 percent increase, plus a AR $3,000 bonus for not missing days of work, which will be paid in three installments.

Members of ATE state workers union, as well as the employees of the province’s Judicial Branch and the public health system have not reached agreements either. They have joined the strike and will march to the house of government at noon as well.

And bankers have joined the protest too. The members of the bankers union announced a new strike for tomorrow. It will be the third of the week, as they had gone on strike on Tuesday and Wednesday. They too rejected the offer of a 15 percent increase, and warned they will implement more measures of force next week if they are not presented with a better offer.