Tuesday
September 16, 2014

Salary negotiations to continue this week

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Teachers define next actions as talks get complicated

By Mariano Parada López
For The Herald
Collective bargaining for teachers is far from reaching agreement. In the first meeting held at the Education Ministry (Pizzurno Palace), the five teacher unions and the Federal Council for Education were unable to sign an agreement to establish a nationwide salary floor. The unions asked for a 35-61 percent hike while the Kirchnerite administration made a substantially lower offer — 22 percent across the year. Negotiation have adjourned until tomorrow when CTERA will hold an assembly to analyze the situation and maybe announce they would stage a strike.

Shortly after 2.30pm, the unions SADOP, UDA, AMET, CEA and CTERA faced education ministers to make a deal regarding the salary floor for all teachers across the country. Their proposals varied: CTERA asked for a 35 percent hike, which would raise salaries up to 4,860 pesos from 3,416. SADOP, AMET, UDA and CEA, united in the pro-government CGT union umbrella, went further for a basic salary of 5,500 pesos or a 61 percent hike.

When the meeting was over, Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich announced a recess. Indeed, the Chaco governor on leave recalled: “Since 2003 (when the late Néstor Kirchner started his administration), teachers’ salaries have gone up 832 percent with a 71 percent gain in purchasing-power.”

Shortly after 8pm, Capitanich explained the government’s proposal: “It consists of a 12 percent hike next March, plus five percent in August and another five percent in November. It means a 22 percent hike with 1,000 pesos in June and December for those present in the classroom, reaching a 26 percent rise in total.” The teachers’ salary floor would thus rise from 3,416 to 4,167 pesos. In his brief press conference, Capitanich stated the importance of rewarding teacher attendance in the educational system, something rejected by the unions.

Some minutes after finishing the meeting, CTERA leader Stella Maldonado gave some details: “We rejected the initial offer of a 22 percent hike plus 1,000 pesos for attendance. We will hold a meeting next Monday at noon.”

The same day, CTERA had called an assembly, where teachers will decide whether to stage a national strike or not.

Inside CTERA, the most representative teachers’ union, with 380,000 members nationwide, there is a rift between the formal helm and some provincial organizations, which back a harder line of action. Before national collective bargaining began, UnTER, Río Negro province teachers’ union, had announced a strike which will start on Wednesday, February 26, when the school year is supposed to begin. ATEN (Neuquén), ADOSAC (Santa Cruz) and SUTEF (Tierra del Fuego) are others who support a tougher line.

Talking to the Herald, ATEN head Daniel Huth announced there are strong chances of a 24-hour strike in Neuquén.

“We are not going to start the school year on March 5 in this situation,” he said, “it will be part of an action plan. ATEN wants to raise the basic salary from 4,300 to 10,000 pesos”.

As result of this infighting, most militant unions within CTERA have designed an action plan which would start on March 5, and would continue on March 6 and 7, depending on the situation of each province. On the other hand, a CTERA spokesman told the Herald: “We are awaiting a better offer. We are open to talks.”

When the meeting at the Education Ministry was over, Sergio Romero (UDA) drove to his union’s congress, where they decided to stage a strike of at least 24 hours in case there is no deal tomorrow. It would begin on March 5.

At the close of this week, just three provinces were able to deal with the unions. They are Córdoba, which signed a 31.6 percent deal; San Luis with 30 percent, and Santiago del Estero (25 percent).

According to the school year schedule, 16 provinces should start on February 26, while the others are planning to do so on March 5, including Buenos Aires province, Buenos Aires City, Córdoba, Entre Ríos, Misiones, Neuquén, Salta and San Juan.

This collective bargaining is the first of 2014, and could point the way for its successors. For instance, teamster leader Pablo Moyano stated his union would ask for a 35 percent hike, and UOM metal workers’Antonio Caló wants a 1,400-peso advance ahead of any talks with the employers.

National collective bargaining for teachers was created by Law 26,705 in 2005, passed during the Néstor Kirchner administration. The law stipulates annual collective bargaining held at the beginning of the school year, when the Federal Council for Education meets nationwide with teachers’ unions to reach agreement on salaries as well as working conditions. The Council is composed by all education ministers from each province, along with the national minister. Teachers are represented by five unions.

Teachers had claimed annual collective bargaining since 1988. According to a CTERA spokesman, there are almost 900,000 teachers in the whole country.

There are more than 12 million students of both primary and secondary school in Argentina, according to Education Ministry figures. Buenos Aires province is the most overcrowded, with 1.6 million primary school students, and 563,000 students in secondary schools.

In Argentina, provinces are responsible for primary and secondary schools. They pay salaries and decide curriculums. The national Education Ministry sets up general guidelines. National collective bargaining establishes a minimum salary for teachers, whose unions have to discuss salary hikes in each province, all at least above the national one.

In the last three years, the Kirchnerite administration closed discussions with a unilateral decision, decreeing hikes of 22 percent (2013), 19.65 percent (2012) and 27 percent (2011) for basic salaries.

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