September 18, 2014
Governor Scioli wants ‘kids in the classroom’
Buenos Aires province leaders warns teachers as strike rolls into 9th day
Teachers in Buenos Aires province will today begin their ninth day of strike activity to demand a wage increase that is higher than the 30.9 percent currently being offered by the provincial administration of Daniel Scioli, who on Saturday echoed the leaders of striking teachers unions by saying he was hopeful this week would see an end to the conflict.
As of yesterday, no date had been set for wage talks.
The head of the Buenos Aires Unified Union of Education Workers (SUTEBA), Roberto Baradel, confirmed over the weekend that teachers would “continue the strike activity due to a lack of proposals,” entering a third week in a stand-off that has kept around three million children out of the province’s schools.
“It’s the same scenario as last week,” the union chief added.
While declaring himself hopeful about the prospect of reaching an agreement with the provincial government during the week, Baradel also revealed that a date had not yet been set for teachers to again sit down at the negotiating table with Scioli adminstration officials, who nonetheless echoed the union chief’s optimism, with Governor Scioli on Saturday also flagging this week for a final deal.
Baradel’s colleague in the striking Buenos Aires Educators Federation (FEB), Mirti Petrocini, backed the SUTEBA chief by reiterating plans to continue down the path of strikes this week.
“We’re not going to take a single step backward because we’re convinced of the legitimacy of our demands,” she said.
Both sides seem likely to be caught between a rock and a hard place this week, with growing debate in social and political circles that favours neither teachers nor the provincial government amid growing frustration about the tardy start to the school year.
The task of defending the administration’s plans to declare education “an essential public service” and effectively bar teachers from skipping school during wage talks, was left to the province’s number two, Lieutenant-Governor Gabriel Mariotto.
Teachers should carry out “wage negotiations the way they have to, but with the kids in the classroom,” he charged. (SUTEBA and the FEB union have both ignored the obligatory conciliation ordered by the government.)
The official’s statements were rejected by Baradel who said “Mariotto doesn’t know anything about provincial, national or international legislation.”
“Argentina has sighed agreements. Clearly it can’t declare it (education) a public service,” he clarified.
Also weighing in on the debate was the Archibishop of Mar del Plata, Antonio Marino, who called for greater “reflexion” about the wage negotiations, seemingly backing the provincial government’s stance on having teachers back in the classroom.
“Parents are worried about the start of classes for their kids. Teachers aren’t being properly remunerated, while leaders are overwhelmed by the current economic situation,” he noted.
“It’s understandable that we’re having acrimonious debates and feeling the need for fairness. But it’s important that this happens with kids in the classroom. It’s not their fault.”
An entirely different angle was being taken by prominent opposition figure, lawmaker Sergio Massa.
The Renewal Front leader and former Tigre mayor demanded on Radio Mitre that “this very afternoon” (yesterday) teachers and government officials return to the negotiating table.
A day after the Scioli administration promised to fit cameras on public bus lines after a driver was killed on the job, Massa also urged the province to televise the wage talks with teachers “so people could see the discussion for themselves.”
Hours later, Baradel dismissed Massa’s remarks by saying that “those who intervene in the wage negotiations are the government and the workers’ representatives.”
The Scioli administration’s current offer would cost the province 19 billion pesos and see teachers’ pay rise by 30.9 percent in staggered increases throughout the year.
Last week, the provincial government agreed to pay hikes ranging from 20 to 41 percent for elements of the public-service sector, using the news to urge still striking teachers, who are aiming for a 35-percent hike, to sign up to its offer.
Teachers in Chaco province will also strike tomorrow, with activity planned for at least 48 hours.
Herald with Télam, DyN