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July 28, 2014
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Four out of five unions go back to class

An empty classroom in La Plata shows the effects of the strike yesterday.

CTERA, the largest teachers’ representative, is left alone in strike that ends tomorrow

Tuesday’s defiant talk by teachers dismissing the government’s mandatory conciliation proved short-lived as four of the five national teachers’ unions called off their wage strike and vowed to return to classes yesterday.

The Confederation of Education Workers of the Argentine Republic (CTERA), the largest union at the national level and the only one that is part of the CTA umbrella union, was left alone, vowing to fulfill its planned 48-hour strike, which means that classes would only return to normal tomorrow.

As the Herald went to press, the Ministry of Labour said it had rejected a CTERA appeal of the mandatory conciliation. A CTERA source said that strike action would go ahead today as planned.

Classes yesterday were largely cancelled nonetheless as the decision to lift the strike was taken too late for the schoolday to be salvaged.

The move to suspend the strike by the Technical Education Teachers’ Association (AMET), Argentine Educators’ Confederation (CEA), Union of Argentine Teachers (UDA) and the Argentine Union of Private School Teachers (SADOP), came after Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich yesterday called on the unions to call off the strike.

Capitanich further argued that there is a need to “seriously examine the problem of absenteeism” in the sector and emphasized the “effort and creativity” that will be required for the discussions to be successful. The Cabinet chief also thanked the unions for the “respect” the representatives had shown during previous salary negotiations.

Speaking at a school in La Rioja, one of the few provinces where classes began as scheduled, Education Minister Alberto Sileoni reiterated the comments made by Capitanich and urged the unions to observe the mandatory conciliation while also noting that the government remained willing to return to the negotiating table to find a solution to the labour dispute.

In that vein, the government announced that it has scheduled another round of negotiations to be held on Wednesday next week with all five major national unions at the Labour Ministry.

CTERA Unimpressed

Stella Maldonado, the head of CTERA, defended the strike during a press conference by saying that it was a means to achieve a “dignified salary.” To further make her point, Maldonado used the example of teachers with ten years of service in the province of Jujuy who earn approximately 4,000 pesos.

CTERA, as a confederation of various teachers’ unions spanning the country, has approximately 352,000 members and is the largest teachers’ union and has one of the most combative unions of Buenos Aires province, the Unified Union of Education Workers of Buenos Aires Province (SUTEBA) as one of its member organizations. There are approximately 900,000 teachers in Argentina and 38 percent of them work in Buenos Aires province.

SUTEBA Secretary-General Roberto Baradel also ratified the decision to go on strike yesterday despite the back-to-work conciliation and linked teachers’ incomes to the quality of education.

Teachers in Córdoba, Buenos Aires City and Santa Fe have gone on strike in solidarity with their colleagues from other provinces even though they reached a wage agreement.

Speaking to the Herald yesterday, CTERA spokesman Alejandro Demichelis declined to speculate why the four other national-level unions had decided to suspend their strike action but insisted that approximately 90 percent of CTERA affiliates observed the strike. Demichelis also said that today’s strike action is expected to have the same level of support from CTERA employees.

Demichelis noted that as CTERA has a total national membership of approximately 352,000 members it is the most representative of the teachers’ unions and he did not expect classes today to go ahead.

Looking ahead

Attention now turns to the next round of meetings expected to take place next week. CTERA reiterated its willingness to negotiate with the government. However, CTERA’s spokesman also noted that CTERA expects an improved proposal that will permit a deal to come to fruition.

Irrespective of the final pay increase that the unions agree to, key demands are that any increases take place in the first semester of 2014, that the agreement contain clauses to incorporate any future volatility in the prices and salaries and that bonuses for perfect attendance not be calculated as part of their salaries.

Herald with Télam

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