Tuesday
October 21, 2014

SUTEBA head roberto baradel talks to the Herald

Saturday, March 22, 2014

‘People want schools to open, but agree with demands’

By Mariano Parada López
For The Herald
Roberto Baradel is the head of Buenos Aires province teachers’ labour union SUTEBA. Baradel is currently at odds with Buenos Aires Governor Daniel Scioli.

He spoke to the Herald about the 14-day strike, which has prevented the school year from opening in the nation’s largest district and has prevented an estimated 3.2 million students from attending classes.

What did you expect from the meeting held at the Ombudsman’s office?

We were pleased with the Ombudsman because it is important that there is an actor involved to get the parts of the conflict closer. We had been demanding for the Buenos Aires province government to call a meeting, but they did not do it.

It is desirable for everybody: the education community, the teachers and indeed the government, for them to revise their actions and table a proposal with a dignified salary for all education workers, which is what we have been demanding. What we ask for is a 35 percent salary hike, as is the case with the national proposal.

How do SUTEBA supporters feel after so many days of strike?

It was clearly seen in the last demonstration in the city of La Plata, with 60,000 people turning out, something never seen since 2001. Teachers are firm, asking for what is fair and it is something the Buenos Aires administration should give a response to. We are holding two assemblies in SUTEBA, where the support for the strike will be decided if there is no response. There is firmness in every action the teachers take.

How many supporters does the strike have?

It has around 95% of acceptance, a massive strike. When you visit Buenos Aires province schools, you can see there are no classes.

What is the parents’ reaction?

We are all parents and want the children attending classes. I have four children and all of them attended public school. My youngest daughter goes to kindergarten and her teachers are on strike. We feel a strong demand to start the school year, as well as a strong demand for the Buenos Aires province administration to solve the conflict. The most recent polls to have been released by the government say the people want the classes to start, and also support the teachers’ demands and consider them fair.

What signal do you expect from Daniel Scioli’s administration?

We expect him to overcome his stance and to offer a better proposal so as to work together and finish the conflict.

How is the teachers’ pay scale?

A classroom teacher earns 3,600 pesos as an initial salary and the Buenos Aires administration wants to hike it to 4,722 in August. Besides, 80 percent of the teachers would raise their salaries by 21 percent. In this way, the pay scale is quashed and insufficient.

The government wants to redistribute the total wage bill in a 25 percent salary hike for all, which is not enough.

Who would get a 30.9 percent hike and who would get a 21 percent?

Classroom teachers and those who work for special schools would get a 30.9 percent salary hike, while the rest just 21 percent, including tutors, the ones the lowest salaries. This universe is 80 percent of the total.

Mother of Plaza de Mayo Hebe de Bonafini wrote a public letter in which she suggests that teachers should find another way to protest, what is your opinion about that?

I did not read it,but I fully respect both Hebe de Bonafini and the Mothers of Plaza de Mayo. It is right to ask for classes to open.

Last year, we returned to give classes as a way back to negotiations, but the Buenos Aires province administration turned its back on us and we staged a four-month conflict. We do not want the same this year and this is the reason for the strike.

When did you first ask to start collective bargaining? What was the response of the Scioli administration?

We did it in November and we got a negative answer. The same happened in December, they told us we would be called in February and it did not happen.

They did it a week before the school year’s beginning and made a proposal we rejected. We warned them we would stage a strike if they did not raise the offer.

They called us again a week later, but offered the same.

What counteroffer should Daniel Scioli do to end the strike?

I do not want to speculate. Teachers take decisions and we demand a substantially better proposal.

Lieutenant governor Gabriel Mariotto suggested considering education as an essential service, which means to regulate the right to strike. What do you think?

Mariotto is wrong. International Pacts, as well as International Labour Organization agreements, say that education can’t be considered an essential service. A service is essential when people’s life and safety are at risk. What must be done to regulate labour conflicts is to establish a special court, which is mentioned in Buenos Aires province’s constitution in its article 39. It has never been put into practice.

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