Yesterday's "hug". Photo via Infonews

Members of the State Workers’ Union (ATE) and the teachers’ union (CTERA) along with activists from different political parties protested layoffs with a symbolic “hug” directed to the Ministry of Education, located in the neighborhood of Recoleta. The demonstration took place in response to authorities’ decision to lay off 3,000 workers: 400 ministry employees and 2,600 online tutors who work in a government program called “Nuestra Escuela” (our school).

The protest comes a day after ATE members were blocked by police as they tried entering the ministry’s headquarters. Protesters say they plan on setting up an audience with ministry authorities to demand the workers who were laid off get reinstated.

Moreover, a police officer was filmed beating ATE Secretary General, Rodrigo Recalde, who later had to be seek attention from doctors within the ministry’s emergency service.

“We came looking for dialogue to remedy the conflict but were brutally repressed. If we are on the street it is because authorities are not opening any doors to solve this conflict, because we requested a meeting but did not receive an answer,” Recalde said. ATE conducted a 24 hour strike today in protest against the “repression” they faced and the authorities’ alleged resistance to dialogue.

The version of events provided by ministry authorities is different: “Police were there because they [the protesters] were going to take over the ministry. They wanted to force their way in, without showing any identification. Police tried to stop them, there wasn’t much more to it, there was no repression,” sources from the ministry told La Nación.

After the ministry decided to not renew 300 contracts in 2017, ATE members peacefully occupied the ministry, demanding workers get reinstated into their positions. The protest ended on Friday when authorities assured the crowd that they would review 100 contracts and analyze the possibility of renewing them, after all.

In regard to the online tutors whose jobs ATE claims are also in danger, authorities claim that they will be free to go back to work in February, when they are meant to return to their normal activities, “as long as they fulfill the job requirements the ministry sets out for 2017’s school year.”

ATE representatives said they are open to dialogue and to trying to find a solution to the conflict.