Jujuy teachers’ unions marched today to the government headquarters in the provincial capital as part of their ongoing strike, which started six days ago. State and healthcare workers joined the protest, adding condemnation against Governor Gerardo Morales proposed constitutional reform, which is expected to pass on June 20. According to them, the reform aims to “criminalize worker protests.”
“We are out on the street to ask for dignified salaries but also to speak out against this constitutional reform that, we understand, hurts our right to protest,” said Silvia Vélez, general secretary of the Association of Provincial Educators (Adep) to Télam. “Most of all due to the decree, which we found out about through the official bulletin on Friday, which establishes tough sanctions for any violation [of the reform].”
Today’s rally was summoned by Jujuy’s main teachers’ unions, the Association of Provincial Educators (Adep) and the Center for Middle and High School Teachers (Cedems), with the slogan “Up with Wages, Down with the Reform.” According to Vélez, 85 to 95% of teachers from the union answered the call to protest. Last Friday, representatives from Jujuy’s Economy Ministry presented the unions with a wage offer —a starting salary of AR$ 179,000 (US$ 380 at the MEP dollar rate) among other remunerations— that will be evaluated in the union’s local assemblies.
Other Jujuy workers unions —including state workers and healthcare professionals— and social organizations also demonstrated today united as the Fighting Organizations Front (FLO). The group expressed its rejection of Morales’ constitutional reform, and his recent executive decree #8464, which punishes and fines anyone “remaining in public areas, disturbing the peace, hindering the free circulation of vehicles and/or pedestrians, causing fear in the population or illegally limiting in any way the free exercise of citizens rights”.
“The governor says he doesn’t want to ban the right to protest, but just issued a decree by which if you protest he will send you without any prior mediation to a criminal court,” FOL said in a statement. “And if you are a public worker (that is, teachers, state and city workers) he will leave you one step away from unemployment. This is how he consolidates his totalitarian regime.”
“Us teachers will not forego our right to protest because it is a conquest that took many years to achieve and we will defend it,” said Cedems Secretary General Mercedes Sosa.
“The idea that they want to fine each protester eight million pesos is ridiculous. Social peace cannot be a pretense to criminalize social protests,” she stressed.
The decree was also repudiated today by the General Confederation of Labor (CGT in Spanish), which issued a statement saying that “initiatives such as this by Morales express ideas and actions associated with nefarious historical times in our country, which aimed to silence the popular voices of unions and workers.”
“Using a misdemeanors code to punish and sanction those who remain in public areas exercising their constitutional rights to protest and strike, and determine the use of security forces to discourage such social and union demonstrations, are all measures that cannot be tolerated in a democratic society where freedom of speech and demonstration are the democratic pillars of our country’s social expression community construction,” they said in the press release.
According to the Jujuy government’s press website, the administration will summon the state workers’ unions to begin a new round of wage negotiations on June 13.
—with information from Télam