With the start of classes now only six weeks away, the issue of teacher pay is assuming its usual protagonism at this time of year.
While teacher unions have already flatly rejected a 15 percent salary increase in keeping with this year’s government guidelines, in his first working week of the year President Mauricio Macri has signed a decree to scrap collective bargaining at the national level, thus jeopardising the start of classes.
If the government can argue that this move only completes the decentralisation of education imposed by the Carlos Menem presidency a quarter-century ago, the unions complain that it eliminates the national minimum salary which was an important benchmark both for provincial negotiations with teacher unions nationwide and for collective bargaining in general.
While the Macri administration is rigidly defending a wage cap, this decree effectively removes any floor, leaving teachers at the mercy of the financial capacity and the goodwill of their respective provinces, the unions protest. Yet the decree does establish a floor by saying that teacher salaries cannot be lower than 20 percent above the national minimum wage, as defined by then-education minister Esteban Bullrich in 2016. The current minister, Alejandro Finocchiaro, who replaced Bullrich last year when the latter commenced a successful senatorial campaign in Buenos Aires province, defended the decree.
As a nationwide union, CTERA in particular feels attacked by this decree, since reducing pay negotiations to the provincial level effectively condemns it to irrelevance. With 420,000 members CTERA is by far the largest national union but there are four others – Sadop, CEA, AMET and UDA.