Photo via Telam

The Buenos Aires Province teachers’ unions are holding a 24-hour strike today, after rejecting on Friday a new salary increase offer from the María Eugenia Vidal administration. So far, the province’s public primary school students had one out of the five schooldays they were supposed to, while the 1.3 million public high school students are 0 for 1. Moreover, union representatives warned that if the Vidal administration doesn’t present an improved offer soon, they will also hold 48-hour strikes later this week and during the next one.

Last Friday, the Vidal made an offer to teachers of an incremental 19 percent salary increase with a one time bonus of AR $500 to each teacher, plus an additional bonus in March between AR $1,500 and AR $3,750, depending on their positions. The offer was rejected instantly.

According to María Laura Torre, Subeta teacher’s union leader, the tension is a “matter of money… if they do not have the money, there will be a profound conflict.” Torre notes the government did not meet after the unions’ dismissal of Friday’s offer, so it is unlikely they have an offer ready (that meets their terms). Without this, the strikes will continue, possibly into tomorrow, in addition to the planned 48 hours strikes starting this Wednesday and next Tuesday.

Teacher’s unions are requesting somewhere between a 25 and 30 percent increase in salary, to both cover what they claim is a loss of 14 percent of their salaries’ purchasing power last year and cover inflation this year. They anticipate an annual inflation rate of 25 percent for the year, whereas the Macri administration predicts a 17 percent inflation rate for 2017.

As of right now, teachers are not legally required to go back to work, attend salary negotiations, and cannot have pay deducted from their salary while striking due to rulings from the Department of Labor and La Plata Judge María Ventura Martínez.

However, the Executive branch is pushing against these rulings in order to impose sanctions, fines, and a process to expedite an agreement with the unions. They estimate this week’s strikes will affect about four million students (mostly from the Buenos Aires area).

This week marks the second week of protests around the nation. Sonia Alesso, General Secretary of the National Confederation of Workers in Education in the Republic of Argentina (CTERA), told press that, “It is not that we only have a conflict in the province [of Buenos Aires]: we have conflict in the majority of the country’s provinces.”

CTERA, the largest teacher’s union in the country, estimates that 90 percent of the province’s 280,000 public teachers joined the strike. The Vidal administration’s estimates were much lower, with 60 percent teacher participation in 17,000 schools. Time will tell how large this weeks strikes are.