Students across the country bid summer vacation goodbye and embarked on their first day of classes this morning, ushered in by a presentation by President Mauricio Macri at a school in Valentín Alsina, Buenos Aires Province. It looked like the whole thing would go off without a hitch, but considering the fact that these past few collective bargaining weeks have been so conflict ridden, who were we kidding: minutes after Macri began a brief speech thanking unions for their willingness to engage in healthy dialogue over salary increases, a group of protestors made their way into the space and heckled him off stage.
So much for a smooth start.
Macri curtailed his presentation and left without addressing the press.
One of Macri’s points during his speech was the fact that 180 days of school simply isn’t enough. Good luck with that one, especially considering the fact that a purported one third of students across the country did not begin classes today as planned due to ongoing disputes between teachers’ unions and the government over salary increases.
Among those yet to begin classes are the teachers and students of schools in the provinces of Córdoba, Santa Fe, Neuquén, Mendoza, Tierra del Fuego, Entre Ríos, Chubut and Santa Cruz, where unions have announced strikes that could last between 24 and 48 hours.
In the Province of Buenos Aires, school began normally this morning, in seeming accordance with Governor María Eugenia Vidal promise yesterday that classes would commence on Monday. This is the first time in eight years that classes are beginning on time and aren’t put on hold due to striking unions, according to Vidal. However, workers from the union Ademys, which represents some 3,000 workers, said they will strike tomorrow. This comes after the Province of Buenos Aires’ unions accepted the 34.6 percent salary increase offered to them on Saturday. For more information on Buenos Aires teacher wages, click here.
For reference, education workers represent over half of Buenos Aires Province’s 500,000 public sector workers, which is why teachers’ unions there have historically been considered pretty powerful.
As a reminder, collective bargaining season, which is usually around February or March, consists of major union leaders and government representatives getting together to discuss yearly salary increases in order to accommodate workers’ purchasing power in relation to inflation. This year, there are disagreements over the projected inflation, which affect the negotiating capacity of each party.
So until the rest of you kids are in school, enjoy another day of asados, mate and sunshine. You never know when that first period bell is going to ring.