Buenos Aires government officials say they'll dock pay from striking teachers if they walk off the job in the latest wave of protests to sweep Argentina.
Teachers throughout the province began a two-day strike on Tuesday that will go national on Wednesday as education unions rally to demand a 24 percent raise and a trigger clause in their contract that increases salaries to match inflation.
The Buenos Aires government has offered syndicate leaders a 10-15 percent increase, but that offer has been rejected on the grounds it isn't enough to "turn the lights on."
Average Argentines have been carrying the load of President Mauricio Macri's austerity measures over the past two years as the right-wing leader and his aligned congress slash energy and transportation subsidies.
Meanwhile, inflation has hovered at about 25 percent for the past year. In addition, the peso fell some 15 points in the first two weeks of May.
The undersecretary of Buenos Aires' education department, Sergio Siciliano, told local media: "Unfortunately, today almost 5 million students are on the verge of not having classes."
Addessing teachers directly, he said: "A day not worked will be discounted."
Organizers include the Union of Education Workers (Suteba); the Federation of Buenos Aires Educators (FEB); the Union Teachers of Argentina (UDA) and the Union of Teachers of Buenos Aires (Udocba).
Suteba leader Roberto Baradel denounced the Buenos Aires government for stalling contract negotiations for over a month.
Baradel and other union leaders say there have been 17 meetings regarding teacher contracts, but syndicates have only been allowed to take part in seven of them, and the salary offers keep getting lower.
"Obviously, we want teachers to teach," despite their union leaders calling them to boycott work, said Siciliano.
FEB Secretary General Mirta Petrocini said: "This has to do with a government that isn't willing to solve because they don’t allow dialogue. They offered us all 15 percent and, in the last meeting a month ago, they presented a 10 percent proposal without a trigger clause," said the
Wednesday's national teacher strike will converge on the Plaza de Mayo.
Also holding a work stoppage are grain port handlers in protest at the president's recent request of a US$30 billion IMF loan, which is still being negotiated.
This agriculture strike follows last week's Cargill walk-out, when employees of the U.S.-based grain monopoly boycotted work to demonstrate against the Argentine office lay-offs.