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August 22, 2014
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Teachers in BA province vow to keep striking

Buenos Aires province teachers’ unions sit down for negotiations yesterday.
By Luciana Bertoia
Herald Staff

Scioli orders a mandatory conciliation as national unions prepare to resume negotiations tomorrow

Public school students in Buenos Aires province will continue their summer holiday today as the provincial teachers’ unions vowed to continue striking for an indefinite amount of time, rejecting the mandatory conciliation issued by Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli yesterday after a long-awaited meeting with the unions in the city of La Plata, in which the workers rejected the latest salary offer.

“We have ordered a mandatory conciliation because we want to continue negotiations but with children inside classrooms,” said Scioli’s Cabinet Chief Alberto Pérez last night.

Teachers in Buenos Aires province have been on strike since last Wednesday and there are doubts whether the unions are going to accept the mandatory conciliation as the national unions did last week.

The unions yesterday said that they strongly reject the mandatory conciliation but did not go into detail.

With this heated scenario, national teachers’ unions are scheduled to resume salary negotiations with the national government tomorrow.

“We want the government to make a convincing offer,” Confederation of Education Workers of the Argentine Republica (CTERA) teacher union leader Stella Maldonado (part of the CTA umbrella union) and UDA teachers’ union leader Sergio Romero (member of the CGT umbrella union) said in conversations with the Herald yesterday.

Deadlock in Buenos Aires province

The main unions in the province yesterday refused to accept the wage hike proposal put forward by the Scioli administration. They considered it to be “insufficient” and ratified their strike for an indefinite length of time.

“The government will be the one that determines how long the walkout is,” the head of Buenos Aires province Educators’ Federation (FEB) Petrocini said after an hour-long meeting with the provincial authorities.

The head of the Buenos Aires Unified Union of Education Workers (SUTEBA) Roberto Baradel yesterday demanded a better offer from Scioli and agreed with Petrocini that teachers cannot accept the provincial government’s proposal.

According to Petrocini, yesterday’s meeting was a slight improvement from previous sit-downs. The Scioli administration offered a 30.9 percent increase to be paid in two installments: 20.9 percent in March and 10 percent in August. That offer was 5.4 percentage points higher than the previous one.

“But it is still below expectations,” Petrocini made clear.

“We are sure the province can make a better offer,” she added. If the Buenos Aires province teachers’ unions had accepted the proposal, their initial salary would reach 4,700 pesos by September, when the second installment would have been due.

“If the province is offering 30 percent now it’s because they have enough money to pay better salaries,” Miguel Díaz, the head of UDOCBA teachers’ union, which is one of the CGT umbrella unions.

National salary negotiations

Even though the national salary talks have been postponed until tomorrow at 3pm — as sources from the unions confirmed to the Herald — several provinces are holding salary negotiations while teachers are on strike.

In Mendoza province, teachers have been on strike since Monday to complain about the 20-percent wage hike offered by Governor Francisco “Paco” Pérez.

In La Rioja province, teachers will start a strike today to protest the provincial authorities offer of a 1,000-peso wage hike, payable in two installments. In Neuquén, teachers will also go on strike today to express their rejection of the government’s decision to bring salary negotiations to an end.

What to expect

Teachers were initially scheduled to meet Kirchnerite officials today but yesterday afternoon they were informed that the meeting was postponed until tomorrow. After weeks of tough negotiations, teachers’ unions leaders want a concrete response from the government.

The Kirchnerite administration offered a 22-percent wage hike, payable in three installments. But the offer did not please the unions because the last installment would not have been paid until next year.

“The problem is not the installments. The problem is the amount of money they want to pay us, which is an insufficient amount,” Maldonado explained to the Herald yesterday.

Last week, the union Maldonado leads, CTERA, decided not to heed to the mandatory conciliation ordered by the Labour Ministry, a decision that also divided waters within those unions that are going to sit down with the government tomorrow.

“The four unions that are part of the CGT umbrella union have a unique position,” Romero told the Herald yesterday. Those unions reject the 3,000 pesos offered by the national government for perfect attendance and they believe that amount should be included in the payroll.

Those unions are said to have been in touch with Kirchnerite officials. “We accepted the mandatory conciliation because we cannot block negotiations,” Romero explained. “We are anxious to unlock this controversy.”

 

@LucianaBertoia

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