The saga over the looming strike teachers are planning to throw at the beginning of the school year continues to make headlines. While the Department of Education recognizes teachers’ constitutional right to strike, many in the provincial government are trying to drive home the message that a strike would infringe on the rights children have to access education. The main talking points coming from officials appears to be that the Department is officially “open” continuing salary negotiations but feels a strike at this point in the process is “heavy handed.”
Alejandro Finocchiaro, Buenos Aires Education Minister, announced that “we [the Department of Education] will be firm, utilizing all the constitutional tools [against the strike].” The carefully crafted statement conveys the Department’s distinction between “supporting” teachers and wanting to hear their concerns, against the tacit threat that it will do everything in its constitutional power to stop the strike. As Fonicchiaro stated last year, “the right to strike is constitutional but not a [free] license.”
Fonicchiaro estimates that the strike is coming from more radical groups that want to use teachers as a mouth piece for a bigger agenda. He notes that as of December, striking was not a planned tactic, and the move towards halting classes is “extreme” and intended to make a statement against the Macri government.
Teachers may not feel the same way, however. This year the Macri government allowed each province to negotiate salaries, and teachers are concerned that without a centralized agreement (aka a Macri decree), there will not be a wage increase that meeting their needs or economic realities.
In an interview with Radio 10, Suteba Secretary General Roberto Baradel showed support for teachers, noting their reduced ability to collectively bargain, and the purpose of the strike. Those within the Department of Education, however, feel that the strike comes as an early, disproportionate tactic.
What we do know is it’s been a tough year on the provinces’ budgets, which may explain limited negotiation so far. Whether or not the strikes happens will be determined with time, negotiations prior to the strike date, or the success of the Department of Education in mitigating strike tactics.