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BA hike by decree does not end strikes

Source: BA province government, salaries in pesos.
Source: BA province government, salaries in pesos.
Source: BA province government, salaries in pesos.
Teachers say real wage increases would not be the 30.9 percent the gov’t claims

Buenos Aires province Governor Daniel Scioli is facing one of the biggest challenges of his administration as powerful teachers unions rejected a unilateral wage hike announced yesterday morning by provincial Cabinet Chief Alberto Pérez.

Scioli’s government said yesterday that it will approve a 30.9-percent hike by decree and will discount from teachers’ paycheques all the days in which they were out of the classroom.

The unions, however, ratified their strike, which enters its eleventh day today, when teachers will carry out a demonstration in the provincial capital of La Plata.

“This alleged 30.9-percent salary increase is only for primary-school teachers who are just starting out,” FEB union leader Mirta Petrocini said yesterday. “All others will receive increases ranging from 21 to 23 percent.”

As part of the negotiating, strategy provincial authorities decided to release a list of what it claims will be teachers’ incomes after the hike by decree.

“The median salary of teachers will be between 10,000 and 14,000 pesos,” Pérez said. “Some headmasters are earning 44,000 pesos (a month).”

Yet the very list presented by Education Minister Nora de Lucía seems to contradict the rosy scenario painted by provincial Cabinet chief Pérez.

According to the provincial document, the now-famous 30.9 percent hike in two installments (one in April, the other in August) will only reach the lowest-earning 2.3 percent of teachers, who from August will be earning a mere 4,717 pesos.

The hike for education workers who are now earning the median salary of 6,175 pesos (which includes teachers doing more than one shift) will be of 22.9 percent, also in two installments, according to the official report.

The province gave two main arguments for ending wage negotiations abruptly: kids need to be in schools and state workers have already accepted a similar offer.

In that context, Pérez said the salary negotiation had been closed by decree and that wages “will begin to be processed tomorrow with the hikes we proposed” adding that “those who do not go to work, will not get paid.”

A case study

Late Monday night, provincial Education Minister Nora De Lucía appeared on TV show Animales Sueltos and explained that only 36 percent of Buenos Aires province teachers work a single shift.

“The rest have two or more jobs, so if we project the current offer they could end up earning 44,255 pesos a month,” the official told the TV programme.

“For example, a school headmaster in (the Southern Buenos Aires district of) Carmen de Patagones who receives a bonus for working in a cold, rural area, and who has another job, will be able to reach that number.”

Udocba general secretary Miguel Ángel Díaz did not hide his disbelief.

“Let me hear the names of those earning 44,255 pesos. I suspect they are government officials,” Díaz said. “I don’t know of anybody who earns that kind of money.”

According to the union leader, the number mentioned by De Lucía “is out of the teachers’ pay scale and clearly a political job.”

‘Tolerance’ to the test

Yesterday, Scioli said that he is willing to negotiate and talk but he also needs to get things done.

“My patience is endless (but) at some point I need to make decisions between what’s ideal and what’s possible,” the governor said during a meeting with the AFERA association of news editors. “What happens in my province ends up affecting both the country and the private sector.”

For her part Government Minister Cristina Álvarez Rodríguez accused some union leaders of “holding students hostage.”

Last night, Pérez announced he and De Lucía would attend a conciliation hearing with union leaders tomorrow.

The meeting, scheduled for 9.30am, was called for by provincial Ombudsman Carlos Bonicatto, officials said.

This is not the first time the Scioli administration has decided to settle wage increases by decree. Last year, it applied a similar measure that failed to solve the problem. The conflict lasted until June, when the governor was forced to reopen the negotiation and offer a new wage hike.

Meanwhile, teachers confirmed they will march today to Government House in La Plata, the province’s capital.

Herald staff

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