BUENOS AIRES – Argentine teachers went on a 48-hour strike demanding better pay, which delayed the start of the school year practically everywhere in the country, particularly in heavily populated Buenos Aires province.
According to union estimates, around 85 percent of teachers have joined in the walkout nationwide, and though in some provinces agreements were reached on wage increases, teachers’ unions remained on strike in solidarity with the regions where negotiations are still in conflict.
“We teachers are angry because we know the consequences for the present and future of education of the shameful government decision that seeks to kill national solidarity (in wage negotiations),” Sergio Romero, secretary general of the Argentine Teachers’ Union (UDA), said Monday in a union statement.
The walkout on Monday stopped the normal beginning of the new school year for some 12 million students, according to estimates by local media.
Most of those affected are in the Argentine capital and Buenos Aires province, where a third of the country’s population lives and where salary negotiations have historically been fought the hardest.
To start with, teachers demand an annual wage increase of 35 percent, claim that their pay raises are behind schedule and do not believe inflation will stay at 17 percent as the government forecasts in its 2017 general budget.
The national government and provincial administrations have, however, made offers of around 18 percent in many cases.
The ruling party’s goal on the one hand is to avoid the negative impact of rising salaries on inflation, and on the other, to control public spending, since the soaring national deficit is one of the chief targets of the Mauricio Macri administration this year, and since many provinces are suffering from severely debilitated economies.
Teachers are organizing marches and rallies around the country this Monday, like the one that has been blocking traffic on some of the Argentine capital’s main thoroughfares since the early hours.
In contrast, Macri will preside Monday over the beginning of the school year in the northern province of Jujuy, where negotiations to raise wages were successfully concluded.