As the wage negotiations between the teachers unions in the Buenos Aires Province and representatives from the María Eugenia Vidal administration have come to a standstill, the unions grouped in the Frente de Unidad Docente (FUD) have announced new measures aimed at ensuring their demands are met: a new strike for April 5 – set to be the third since the beginning of the school year – and the setting up of a white tent outside the provincial House of Government, located in the city of La Plata.
Other state workers’ unions from the province – public health and judicial branch workers – will join the protest, demanding their own collective bargaining process be initiated, as the sole ongoing negotiation is that with the teachers.
The last measure is reminiscent of the historic white tent set up by public teachers during Carlos Menem’s second presidency (1995-1999), aimed at giving visibility to their demand that a larger portion of the state’s budget be allocated to education. One of the longest protests in Argentine history, it was outside Congress for more than two and a half years, until the government passed a law guaranteeing a US $600 million – AR $600 million at the time – fund for teachers’ salaries.
Teachers had already resorted to a similar strategy last year, setting up a tent-like structure mimicking the façade of a school in front of Argentina’s Congress, after receiving permission from the government.
In that case, they demanded to have their wage negotiations held at the federal level. Same as this year, negotiations were conducted by each province individually.
The decision to set up the white tent comes after last week’s fifth unfruitful meeting with provincial authorities.
In this last meeting, representatives of the María Eugenia Vidal administration again offered a yearly salary increase of 15 percent, to be paid in three installments, and bi-monthly bonuses for teachers who don’t miss class. This would amount to AR $6,000 for those who have perfect attendance in 2018, AR $4,500 for four absences or less, and AR $3,000 for those who have between five and eight. This time, they also included a AR $3,000 one-time bonus.
Unions rejected the proposal arguing the yearly inflation will actually be close to 20 percent – most private analysts, and even the Central Bank (BCRA) share this estimate. Moreover, they ask for the incorporation of the so-called “trigger clause,” which would honor its name if the annual inflation rate surpasses the agreed increase, ensuring that their wages’ purchasing power does not decrease.
Last year, both camps finally reached an agreement in July, with 16 days of strikes spread throughout the school year.