The second day of the teachers’ strike is underway, and, considering how tense things are between unions and the provincial governments (with whom they have to negotiate their salary increases for this year), an agreement still seems to be far, far down the road.
In retaliation to the strike, the María Eugenia Vidal Administration decided to fight fire with fire. They began a process to impose on the Buenos Aires Province unions that spearheaded the strike severe economic sanctions and to even stop acknowledging them as official organizations.
Despite rising tension, teachers received some good news from the legal front. First, a court annulled a decision from the provincial Department of Labor which compelled teachers to go back to the schools while negotiations continue. Another ruling determined the Vidal administration can’t deduct protest days from teachers’ wages. In the ruling, La Plata Judge María Ventura Martínez even warned that, should they not comply with the ruling, she would sanction government officials.
However, the government is planning to appeal the decision and is confident the appeals court will uphold a prior ruling that allowed them to deduct strike days from pay. It also appealed the first ruling. When speaking to press, provincial Department of Labor Minister Marcelo Villegas said the rulings were “ephemeral victories, based on some judge’s ideological affiliation with the unions… They won’t last.”
Tens of thousands of teachers marched yesterday in different cities across the country, protesting against what they consider to be low salary offers from their respective provincial administrations and the refusal of the federal government to hold a national negotiation.
Buenos Aires Province Unions claim the 18 percent salary increase the Vidal administration is offering — subject to increase if the year’s official inflation exceeds that number — is not enough. They insist their salaries lost 14 percent of their purchasing power last year, and that this year’s inflation will be 25 percent — 7 percent more than what the government predicts. Both parties will meet again tomorrow, where the Government will likely make a new offer.
According to Ctera, the largest teachers’ union in the country, 90 percent of the province’s 280,000 public school teachers adhered to the strike. The Vidal administration, in contrast, assured that the strike’s impact was lower and was felt in only 60 percent of the province’s 17,000 schools. We’ll see how tomorrow’s meeting goes. It will certainly be a tense one.