BUENOS AIRES – Thousands of striking teachers from across Argentina began gathering on Wednesday for a rally outside the presidential palace to demand a pay raise.
Making their way on foot to the city’s main square, the Plaza de Mayo, the teachers blocked some of the main routes used by commuters to enter Buenos Aires.
The secretary-general of the UDA teachers union, Sergio Romero, thanked the participants for their commitment and insisted that workers should have a say in education policy.
“We are prepared to have a dialogue,” he said in comments to TN television. “Now, if there is no dialogue, obviously, forceful measures will take place, and the conflict will grow worse.”
Though teachers’ pay is traditionally set through negotiations with the governments of the 24 individual provinces, the unions are demanding talks at the national level and an across-the-board increase of 35 percent to compensate for inflation, which topped 40 percent last year.
Teachers have mounted four 24-hour strikes since the start of the new school term earlier this month.
The effects of the walkouts have been most noticeable in Buenos Aires, home to more than a third of Argentina’s roughly 42 million people, where the schools have been shut down for 10 days.
Argentina’s education minister, Esteban Bullrich, told Radio La Red on Wednesday that the government will talk to the teachers unions once they end the strikes and conclude salary negotiations at the provincial level.
The national government is unwilling to negotiate with teachers on economic issues, he said.