Photo:;Carlos Cermele, Telam

Yet again, teachers unions and authorities from Buenos Aires Province’s administration failed to reach an agreement regarding salary increases. However, if there were to be  a silver lining to this whole ordeal, it would be the fact that despite the forceful rejection of the proposal, union leaders didn’t call a new strike as a result of the unfruitful negotiations.

In yesterday’s meeting, provincial government authorities made a salary proposal pertaining to this year, and the following two as well, in an attempt to give the teachers a degree of “stability.” For 2016, they offered a 20 percent salary increase, a bonus for attendance that could reach a yearly sum of AR $5,300 for those who don’t miss a day, and a one-time bonus of AR $750 per shift — teachers’ shifts last four hours, and because of that most work two — to compensate for their salaries’ loss of purchasing power during last year.

The offer also included a so-called “trigger clause,” which would kick in if this year’s inflation rate surpasses the salary increase accepted by unions. As for the next two years, the María Eugenia Vidal administration made an offer that would exceed the year’s inflation rate by 10 percent, whatever it may be. As for the attendance bonus, it would amount to AR $20,000 per year in 2018 and AR $32,000 in 2019.

Union representatives, however, rejected the offer and saying the increase was too small. “We don’t understand how the provincial government and the [national] government continue to stall and fail to solve the problem, they are not discussing seriously. It’s not a step forward, in any way, it’s just another step in their strategy of not modifying their initial proposal, as the one or two percent increase they offered was modifyied by reality itself,” said union leader Roberto Baradel.

Baradel was making reference to the fact that the official inflation rates for the first three months of the year largely exceeded the government’s expectations and, if projected to the rest of the year, would reach 25 percent. Quite higher than the 18 percent the national government predicted.

He went on to clarify that unions wouldn’t call for a new strike and they expected the administration to call another meeting with them today with the aim of continuing  negotiation process. He did say that if the authorities don’t improve their offer in today’s potential meeting though, that they “have prepared different courses of action.”

On their end, government authorities highlighted the unions’ willingness to carry on with the negotiations but, in contrast with their stance, assured that “there’s no doubt we presented an improved offer in economic terms.”

Ctera national union has set up a "mobile school" in front of the national Congress to make their demands more visible. Photo via TN
Ctera national union has set up a “mobile school” in front of the national Congress to make their demands more visible. Photo via TN

Speaking to press after the meeting, provincial Labor Minister Marcelo Villegas said that “we propose a three-year educational agreement that guarantees classes will start on time, improve teachers’ salaries, focuses on reducing absenteeism.”

“The proposal exceeds the short term and offers stability to the teachers, the kids and their families. Teachers will beat inflation and their salaries’ purchasing power will increase throughout the years,” he added. There’s still no confirmed date for the next meeting, but despite the confrontational language, this might have been the first step towards the solution of a conflict that has already transcended the classrooms and become a political power struggle.