Although overshadowed by other issues currently dominating the public agenda, the conflict between teachers unions and both the federal government and certain provincial ones is far from being over. And, in fact, expect a new round next Wednesday when teachers part of Ctera, the largest national union, along with all other unions that join their initiative, go on strike throughout the country.
The measures of force will actually start two days before, and teachers will kick off on Monday a so-called “federal march” that will take them through different provinces and conclude in Plaza de Mayo on Wednesday.
Namely, teachers are demanding the federal government go back to holding wage negotiations with the unions at a national level. Unions criticize the government for derogating via decree the so-called “educational financing law,” which established that the national Education Ministry, along with the federal council of education and the five national teachers unions, had to produce a framework of an agreement every year that included the minimum salary for teachers throughout the country. Taking that as a standpoint, then, the provincial unions negotiated their yearly wages with their respective administrations.
Last week, the union published a “letter to the educational community” arguing that, as a result of this, they believe “public education is in jeopardy, same as in the 90’s,” since the federal government is “absent” and “avoids providing any kind of financing, leaving provinces to their fate.” “We demand the national government implement a new educational financing law. Several bills were introduced but none had the support of the Cambiemos caucuses,” adds the letter, which ends by anticipating “different actions to give visibility to these problems.”
Back then, the government argued in contrast that provinces should conduct their respective negotiations on their own, as they are the ones that effectively pay for the teachers’ salaries.
At a provincial level, most jurisdiction have reached agreements with the unions, but parties in the Buenos Aires Province haven’t. The Province is arguably the most relevant one at the time of determining the state of negotiations at a national level, considering it holds 40 percent of its students.
The conflict has received less attention from the media this year, perhaps due to the fact that unions have not resorted to striking to give visibility to their demands. However, more than two months after the beginning of the school year, they have not reached an agreement with the María Eugenia Vidal administration.
The two camps have had 16 meetings – the last one was on April 20 – and the provincial government has made seven offers, all rejected. As a result of this, the Vidal administration has implemented unilateral increases that, come June, will amount to 10 percent. It also announced it will give a AR $1,000 bonus to teachers who have not missed class since the beginning of the school year.
Unions have repeatedly claimed the offers are insufficient and, following the economic turbulence the country went through in the past weeks, anticipated they will request for a 25 percent increase next time they meet.