March 5 is the set date for children in Argentina to go back to school. However, given the current state of most wage negotiations (paritarias docentes) between teachers unions and the provincial administrations, chances of this happening are slim, with only the Misiones Province having closed a deal.
The second round of negotiations in the Buenos Aires Province – which serves as a parameter for most of its provincial counterparts, given its size – had a fruitless outcome, as representatives from the teachers unions rejected the new proposal from the government authorities.
María Eugenia Vidal’s administration maintained its initial offer of a 15 percent annual increase to be paid in three equal installments, and added quarterly 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.
According to several news reports, stimulating the reduction of absenteeism will be the main axis around which the provincial government will operate, seeking to save funds in this area and destine a percentage of what it currently pays in sick leaves – authorities assure 105,000 leaves per month were paid in 2017 – to teachers who don’t miss class.
Unions rejected the proposal on three grounds:
- They consider the annual offer to be low,
- It doesn’t include the so-called “trigger clause,” which would honor its name if the year’s official inflation rate surpasses the increase they are given,
- They argue that the bonus for not missing class would force teachers to attend even when they are sick.
“While there are some exceptions [of teachers who miss class when they are not actually sick] we can’t accept this proposal,” Mirta Petrocini, head of the Federación de Educadores Bonaerenses (FEB), told La Nación.
Besides the “trigger clause,” unions demand a 20 percent increase in line with the last inflation estimate released by the Central Bank (BCRA).
However, demonstrating that it intends to maintain focus on absenteeism, the Vidal administration also announced it will pay an AR $4,500 bonus to the teachers who didn’t miss a school day last year. Predictably, this does not include the ones who did miss class at least 16 times in 2017, protesting for a higher salary.
Union leader Roberto Baradel has already anticipated that once the administration follows through, he will resort to the International Labour Organization (ILO) to accuse the governor of sidestepping the negotiations established by law.
The two camps are set to meet again next week. Unions have not announced any demonstrations yet, but the possibility that classes will start on time seems low.