Foto: Carlos Cermele

The ongoing conflict in Buenos Aires province between teachers’ trade unions and the provincial government seemed to be approaching resolution earlier today after Secretary General of the Buenos Aires Educational Workers’ Trade Union (SUTEBA) Roberto Baradel said it was likely the unions would accept Buenos Aires Province Governor María Eugenia Vidal’s new offer of a 27.4 percent salary increase (including add-ons and compensation from 2016).

“It’s probable that we will settle,” with the offer, Baradel told the TN television news channel Tuesday morning after a meeting of the umbrella organization United Front of Teachers in Buenos Aires Province (FUDB).

FUDB  includes SUTEBA and many other acronym-based trade unions in the province including the Buenos Aires Federation of Educational Workers (FEB), Union of Teachers’ in Buenos Aires (UDOCBA), Union of Private Teachers in Buenos Aires (SADOP) and Association of Technical Teachers (AMET).

The announcement pushed the serial conflict between Vidal’s Let’s Change (Cambiemos) provincial government and educational workers in Buenos Aires province one step closer to resolution following months of hard-fought negotiations and strikes.

Baradel, a popular figurehead for teachers in BA province, said that the lack of coverage in the proposal for teachers who can’t make it to school on any given day was still unsatisfactory, however.

“What bothers us is that a person who gets sick or asks for a leave to study is punished,” he said, clarifying that they were in agreement with the government’s calls for improved management of resources.

“We understand that the state has to be more efficient in controlling, and we do not endorse abuses,” he added.

The total offer of a 27.4 percent increase represents a significant gain for organized teachers in Argentina’s most populous province and a sizeable concession from Vidal’s government.

The provincial government’s initial offer of an 18-percent increase over four payments pushed at the start of the year was rejected outright by teachers’ unions, who have demanded increases between 25 and 30 percent and in doing so pointed to inflation of over 40 percent in 2016, which far exceeded initial government projections.

A series of slight, incremental increases to the initial offer was tabled by the provincial government since February but rejected by unions in the weeks that followed, whose representatives pointed out their lack of movement in real terms from the initial offer.

Accepting the total 27.4 percent increase now offered by Vidal’s government would also be a compromise for the unions, however, not least since the base offer amounts to just over 20 percent.

The current proposal on the table represents a 21.5 percent base increase, and comes alongside guaranteed bonuses of 1,600 pesos for each contingency in loss of purchasing power (as happened last year) and a 2.5 percent increase as compensation for higher-than-expected inflation in 2016, all of which means the total increase would amount to a total increase of 27.4 percent according to union representatives.

With the new offer, Vidal’s administration appeared to reverse its previous claim that a salary increase close to what the unions were demanding would be impossible with the resources available to the BA provincial government.

“It is clear that there was money available to improve the proposal,” Baradel said Tuesday, suggesting that the strikes he helped coordinate in recent months could have been averted had the government put the current offer on the table earlier.

Vidal for her part repeatedly criticized unions for exercising their right to strike during the conflict, saying it hurt school children who would miss classes and even threatening pay deductions for teachers who took part.

Unions for their part consistently remarked that the strikes were a last resort following intransigence from the government. In March, Baradel said the strikes had “not meant to destabilize anyone, but to get [the BA province government] to stop applying policies that are harming workers.”