Teachers march. Photo via Telam

Hundreds of thousands of teachers from all over the country took to the streets of the City of Buenos Aires yesterday demanding that the government hold wage negotiations at a national level and presents educators with a better proposal than the one the provincial administrations — following the national government’s projections of what inflation will look like for the year — have been offering.

The Macri administration continues refusing to give in to those demands, arguing that they have already increased the teachers’ minimum wage in the past and that they gave funds to the provinces so salaries can be paid fairly. As a result, they say, each province has to deal with their own teachers.

Teachers couldn’t disagree more and have made that clear in the speeches the union leaders delivered in Plaza de Mayo: “we want to thank public school students, who are fighting for their rights in their students’ unions, in universities, in the neighborhoods. These people behind us, the President, the Education Minister, have insulted us all. The teachers, the students, because none of us who are here ‘fell’ in public school,” said union leader Sonia Alesso.

Union leader Sonia Alesso Photo: Fanton/Télam/AA
Union leader Sonia Alesso Photo: Fanton/Télam/AA

She was making reference to a comment from Macri, where he referred to public school as a second, worse-quality option to which kids had to resort if they couldn’t afford private school. “There’s a terrible inequity between those who can go to private school and those who have to ‘fall’ into public education,” Macri said presenting the results of the “Aprender” tests this week.

In another speech, teachers union leader in the Buenos Aires Province, Roberto Baradel, spoke about the current state of negotiations with the María Eugenia Vidal Administrations, arguably the mother of all battles between these unions and provincial governments.

“On Monday we met with the government. They heard us and we heard them. We reached out to officials from the Vidal administration and they won’t go back on their decision to deduct strike days spent protesting from the teachers pay.

"I proudly 'fell' in public education," the sign reads. There were a lot of references to Macri's comments both in the speeches and the signs. Photo via Telam
“I proudly ‘fell’ in public education,” the sign reads. There were a lot of references to Macri’s comments both in the speeches and the signs. Photo via Telam

Last Friday, teachers from the BA Province rejected an offer stipulating a 19 percent increase — closer to the government’s projected 17 percent inflation for the year — plus a one time bonus compensating the for the loss in purchasing power connected with salaries last year.

In contrast, Teachers are demanding a 25 to 30 percent salary increase, arguing that this year’s inflation will be actually closer to that number. They also say the bonus is not enough to compensate for their salaries’ loss of purchasing power from last year, which they claim came in at 14 percent. Unions from other provinces have similar demands, except the ones from Salta, Tucumán and San Luis, who did reach an agreement. Nonetheless, unions members from those provinces attended the march in solidarity with those who haven’t reach agreements yet.

Despite the demands made during the march, Education Minister Esteban Bullrich reiterated that the government will continue refusing to hold national negotiations. “It’s not stubbornness from the Casa Rosada to stand its ground. The unions don’t understand that we have already increased the teachers’ minimum wage and gave more fund to the provinces [so they could negotiate and ultimately pay their salaries]. I think it’s stubborn to say ‘I won’t reach an agreement in the Buenos Aires Province because Bullrich isn’t calling me,” he said.  The days go by and the middle ground is still pretty far away.