In Jujuy, teachers’ unions continue to strike demanding higher salaries and an end to Governor Gerardo Morales’ proposed constitutional reform, after his announcement that he would repeal a controversial decree that activists said would criminalize protest.
Early years and primary school teachers’ union ADEP is organizing a march through the center of Jujuy’s provincial capital, San Salvador, and other cities on Thursday evening.
On June 13, Morales announced the repeal of his executive decree 8464, which sought to punish and fine those “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.”
Morales warned that if teachers did not return to work, their salary would be reduced for each day they were on strike and they would lose part of their pay known as presentismo, which reflects their attendance in the workplace and is currently around AR$20,000 (US$78 at the official rate, US$42 at the MEP dollar rate) per month. He added that he would not negotiate with teaching unions regarding their salaries while they were on strike.
“Any [salary] proposal in this context of inflation will not be enough, that is why we ratify ongoing wage rounds, and next month we will sit down [for talks] again,” Morales said during a press conference.
Mercedes Sosa, head of teachers’ union CEDEMS, stated their request was take-home pay of ARS$210,000 and a trigger clause allowing for wage negotiations to be re-opened depending on inflation. Unions are calling for wage rounds to be opened that take into account all the state unions’ demands. On Monday, protestors rejected the government’s Friday offer of a salary of ARS$179,000, the restructuring of attendance awards, additional non-remunerative bonuses, and other considerations.
Activists and unions also believe Morales’s proposed reform to Jujuy province’s constitution presents similar risks to the repealed decree. It would include provisions that demonstrations and other forms of social protest cannot “be carried out in a violent fashion or impede or pose an obstacle to the exercise of other rights” and the right to protest would be “regulated”, as well as banning roadblocks as a form of protest.
Mercedes Sosa expressed the workers’ position: “We don’t want more threats. The decree was scandalous. It was another example of the authoritarianism that unfortunately characterizes [Morales’s] administration.”
This sentiment was echoed by the Labor Ministry, which said that the decree “modifies a provincial law and, under the pretext of guaranteeing the rights of free transit and circulation, censures and penalizes workers’ demonstrations, violating freedom of association and contemplating the use of the police force and the intervention of the criminal justice system to criminalize and repress protest.”
Morales is also the president of the Unión Cívica Radical party, one of the main parties in opposition coalition Juntos por el Cambio. In March, he announced that he would run for the presidency in Argentina’s upcoming elections.
While the decree has been overturned, there is still widespread opposition to Morales’s proposed constitutional reform. Nonetheless, his administration plans to move forwards, arguing he is working against “those who generate violence.” The struggle is likely to continue with the head of ADEP, Silvia Vélez, stating: “It’s time for us to be more united than ever.”
—with information from Télam