Photo via La Nacion

The clock is ticking for the governor of Buenos Aires Province, Maria Eugenia Vidal. Six working days remain until the school year begins. But with her government locked in a battle with teacher’s unions over wage increases – or paritarias – and the threat of a province-wide teacher’s strike looming large for the first day of school, thousands of students may have a late start to term.

It would be a very politically damaging turn of events for Vidal and the national government. (Especially given Vidal made a particularly big deal of her negotiating skills last year after the school term started without dramas – “we wanted to show that it’s possible for classes to start on time” she said last year.)

However, a recent court case may have delivered her something of a lucky break. Yesterday, an administrative appeals court revoked a resolution that had previously made it illegal for the government to discount wages from teachers for the days they participate in strike action. In other words, the government is able to make wage deductions from teacher’s salaries for the days they go on strike. This makes the province-wide strike – set for March 6, should government and unions fail to reach an agreement – a much more costly action for the province’s teachers.

On February 6, Vidal’s government and teachers unions from the province of Buenos Aires met to negotiate wage increases for 2017 for the first time. The unions rejected Vidal’s proposal of a four-payment 18% wage increase with a “trigger clause” that applies in the case of inflation hitting a reestablished threshold. Instead, they demanded a 35% increase, paid in a maximum of two payments. The parties will meet again this Thursday to continue negotiations, but the unions have been standing firm on their demands.

Now, as a result of Tuesday’s ruling, Vidal will go to Thursday’s negotiating table with something of an ace up her sleeve. She got it after an administrative appeals court reviewed a decision made by a judge last August, which prohibited the government from discounting days taken to strike from teacher’s salaries.

The case was in relation to the government’s decision to difscount from the wages of teaching assistants who participated in strikes during 2016 salary negotiations, according to La Nación. The union that represented the workers applied for an injunction forcing the government to pay the salaries, which was upheld at first instance by judge Luis Arias.

However, an appeals court has overturned this decision, relying on precedent to reject the union’s claims, one of which that the wage deductions amount to “union discrimination”. 

The Bubble spoke to labour lawyer, Jorge Schiffer, who suggested the decision was sound.

“They have the right to strike, what they won’t be able to do is get paid because what they’re not doing is putting their labour at the disposal of the employer. Therefore, the lack of payment is not unjustified.”