Argentina’s university professors end the third week of protest with 70 symbolic lectures in the Plaza de Mayo, outside the presidential palace, square Friday. They are protesting austerity and cutbacks that affect public higher education budgets and a proposed wage increase of 15 percent.
“The situation is very serious. We have three weeks of conflict, three weeks of not starting classes, and the lack of response by the national government makes us think there is no education ministry in this country,” Luis Tiscornia, secretary general of the National Federation of University Professors said.
The conflict between professors and the Argentine government began in early 2017 when the government announced cuts for science and research. In May 2018, professor organized the largest strike in over 12 years demanding a higher budget for higher education.
Since 2015, when businessman Mauricio Macri took office, the government has implemented austerity programs, generating conflicts across numerous sectors including state workers, human rights groups, students, and the general population.
The professors, lecturers and other staff at public universities have organized a national march for August 30. “From all the universities in the country, we will come to the capital to demand action to the education ministry… We need to defend public higher education,” Tiscornia argued.
This week thousands of educators and students marched together in defense of public universities throughout Argentina.
The government of president Mauricio Macri announced last month US$99 million (over $3 billion Argentine Pesos) in cuts to the public education sector and a halt in infrastructure projects. This announcement aggravated the demand for salary increases that respond to the increasing rate of inflation.
Public University workers are not alone. On Thursday, teachers’ unions in Buenos Aires called for a 72-hour strike beginning next week, after rejecting a salary increase proposed by governor Maria Eugenia Vidal.
Teachers had demanded a 30 percent increase, and automatic recalculation clause in case inflation surpasses the expected 32 percent in 2018. Local authorities offered a less than 20 percent increase. Roberto Bradel, of the Union of education workers (Suteba), said the government’s counteroffer was “shameful.”
Educators have vowed to hold a strike between Aug. 28 and Aug. 30. On Aug. 29 they will march towards the governorship in La Plata, as part of announced protests.
“We reject a proposal that doesn’t even reach 19,6 percent, which is the accumulated (inflation) in the month of July according to the Indec (National Institute for Statistics and Census),” Bradel told the national press.
A new meeting between teachers and government representatives is expected in two months.