Argentina’s Teachers And Unions Hit The Streets In Protest

On Monday, March 6, thousands of teachers in Argentina hit the streets of Buenos Aires in protest, demanding better working conditions and salary increases. The strike lasted 24-hours, delaying the beginning of Argentina’s academic year. Demonstrators held banners of the national flag.

Specifically, the teachers were calling for a 35% wage increase in order to match the country’s recent rapid inflation. They were also disgruntled with recent decisions to allow provincial governments authority over minimum wage policies. In contrast, teachers believe that they should be entitled to negotiate their salaries at a national level.

The next day, teachers were joined by some of Argentina’s major trade and social unions, including the including the General Confederation of Labor (CGT). The unions joined together in order to protest major job cuts and the lifting of restrictions on imports. The government claims that only 11,000 public workers were laid off in 2016’s first quarter. President Mauricio Macri defends these cuts, saying that such measures are necessary in order to revive Argentina’s weak economy. In contrast, unions estimate that over 100,000 workers in both the public and private sector have been laid off. The Argentine Center for Economic Policy says that the metallurgic industry has been hit particularly hard, with over 17,000 workers losing their jobs in the last year.

Regarding the protests, the CGT says that they had previously been in talks with the government and had agreed to a truce in December 2016, provided their key demands and subsequent agreements were met. CGT leader, Hector Daer, is adamant that their agreement has not been kept. If their demands are not met, union leaders have threatened to plan a further nationwide strike in March or April.

In Buenos Aires, the government has decided to deduct from teachers’ salaries for every day of the strike. Production Minister Francisco Cabera claims that the administration is succeeding at bringing Argentina out of five years of recession, saying that “This year we’re going to grow and no march going to stop us.”

These protests were abruptly followed by Women’s Day Marches, which protested high rates of femicide in Argentina. The three full days of protest were set to be the largest demonstration against Macri’s administration since it took office over a year ago. The Center for Public Opinion Studies state that support for Macri has fallen below 40%. This is particularly important as Argentina faces its Congressional elections later this year.

The protests attracted a huge variation of demonstrators, including workers such as street vendors, truck drivers, and brickers. This is proof of a unification of several historically divided unions and communities coming together against Macri. UNI America’s President Ruben Cortina put it best, saying: “The people of Argentina are fighting back.”

Kimberley Mobbs