Tag Archive | "strike"

Chile: Teachers Strike against Education Reform Bill

'Teachers and students united in the struggle' (photo courtesy of Colegio de Profesores)

‘Students and teachers united in the struggle’ (photo courtesy of Colegio de Profesores)

This morning, thousands of Chilean teachers began an indefinite strike in protest of the government’s proposed education reform law.

The bill, called ‘Carrera Docente’, introduces a new pay scale system for teachers, which would include periodical tests as a prerequisite for climbing the pay scale ladder. It also details new grounds for dismissal for teachers who do not meet the academic requirements, and an increase in “non-teaching” hours for activities such as meetings, planning, and marking.

“We dialogued for more than three months, and presented our proposals, but little of that was reflected in the bill,” objected union leader Jaime Gajardo.

Responding to the strike, Economy Minister, Nicolás Eyzaguirre, said he lamented the decision, arguing that there had been a genuine dialogue with the teachers, and that they had been aware of the details of the law project. “I would call for continued talking. We believe that Carrera Docente is a tremendous leap forward for teachers,” the minister assured.

Conversely, in a letter to President Michelle Bachelet, the union criticised the “informality with which the Ministry of Education handled the discussions”, and the consequent mistrust and discomfort it had caused among their representatives.

The teachers also accused the project of being based in a fundamental mistrust in educators and stripping the training institutions of their responsibility, saying that teacher training institutions “have made education a cheap degree to implement in order to achieve greater economic benefits.” For the educators, the certificates and the tests for the pay hikes shift the responsibility from the training institutions to the teachers themselves. In addition, the union stated that the project “sustains the market-based education model”.

In Chile, municipalities are in charge of the public schools. The Chilean Association of Municipalities (ACHM) expressed its discontent with the strike, and called for the ministry and the union to continue negotiations. ACHM communicated that even though the teachers have promised to make up for any missed classes, “there is always a loss of hours that affects the performance and continuity of our students.”

The teachers’ union similarly called for the Education Ministry to establish another round table of dialogue. In the meanwhile, there will be marches in Santiago today and on Wednesday 3rd June, when the teachers will be joined by a column of the students’ union, Confech, which has expressed its solidarity with the teachers. On Friday the teachers will hold a national assembly of their delegates to decide on the continuation of the strike and to draft another letter to the president.

Education is a salient political issue in Chile. The student movements have been mobilizing since 2011demanding that the government fulfils its promises of free university education and ending private profit in education. The protests often result in violent confrontations between the police and the demonstrators. Reforming the sector is one of the major promises for President Bachelet’s second term in office. Carrera Docente, which would be implemented in 2016, is the government’s attempt to deliver the reform.

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Government Announces Changes to Income Tax

Economy Minister Axel Kicillof (photo: Wikimedia commons)

Economy Minister Axel Kicillof (photo: Wikimedia commons)

Economy Minister Axel Kicillof has announced changes in income tax rates.

The modifications announced this afternoon will apply to the lowest brackets —those who earn a gross wage of between $15,000 and $25,000 per month— who will see the income tax rates reduced by at least 18%. This will translate into an increase of 5-6% in the nett salary.

According to Kicillof, “those who earn lower wages will have a greater reduction [in the tax], because we modified the scale.” He exemplified this reduction, explaining that “a married worker, with two children, who earns a gross wage of $20,000 [per month] and currently pays $1,280 in taxes, will now pay $397.” A single worker without children “with a gross wage of $20,000 who currently pays $2,000 [in income tax] will have a reduction of 32% and will pay $1,400.”

Kicillof also pointed out that “it’s not true that the income tax applies to all workers (…) Today, it applies to 11.3% of the total of registered workers.”

The reduction in the income tax threshold has been at the forefront of union demands. The Minister, however, confirmed that the non-taxable threshold remains at $15,000.

Shortly before Kicillof’s conference, the head of the Metal Workers Union (UOM), Antonio Caló, announced a 36-hour strike as wage negotiations stalled. His union is asking for a 32% increase, but employers have refused to give anything more than 24%.


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General Strike Called for Tuesday

A general strike has been called for Tuesday 31st March. The 24-hour strike, which will begin at midnight today, was originally announced by the transport workers’ unions, and will be joined by the opposition factions of the two umbrella unions, CGT and CTA.

The following sectors will not operate on Tuesday due to the strike:

  • Transport: short and long distance buses, trains, international and domestic flights. [UPDATE 31/1, 9am: A few international flights are leaving from Ezeiza, check with your airline]
  • Subte: B and D lines will not operate, the rest will suffer delays. [UPDATE 31/3, 9am: none of the subte lines are functioning]
  • Banks.
  • Some government offices.
  • Petrol stations.
  • Rubbish collection.
  • Freight trucks.
  • Ports and foreign trade activities. [UPDATE: Buquebus and Colonia Express have stated that their ferry services to Uruguay will not be affected by the strike]

Whilst the larger unions have announced they will not block streets or set up pickets, some left-wing sectors are expected to mobilise.

Protesters are demanding changes to the income tax, an emergency increase in pensions, and measures against inflation.


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Marches, Roadblocks Cause Transport Chaos Ahead of General Strike

Coastguard officers look on as the opposition CTA union stages a roadblock on Puente Pueyrredón (Photo: Paula Riba/Télam/ddc)

Coastguard officers look on as the opposition CTA union stages a roadblock on Puente Pueyrredón (Photo: Paula Ribas/Télam/ddc)

A series of roadblocks and marches have caused transport chaos today in parts of Buenos Aires and its surrounding areas. The disruption comes a day before several major unions hold a 24-hour general strike, which is set to cause further headaches for commuters on Thursday.

The opposition faction of Central for Argentina Workers (CTA) umbrella union, which began an extended 36-hour strike at midday today, organised roadblocks on major highways and key access points to the capital this morning.

Some of these since been lifted, though pickets remain on Av General Paz, and the Ricchieri highway, causing delays in travel to Ezeiza airport.

The opposition CTA leadership, headed by Pablo Micheli will lead a demonstration in front of the National Congress this afternoon. The demands of the union include scrapping income taxes on salaries, an end to the dismissal of workers at industrial factories, and the suspension of external debt payments pending an audit to determine the its legitimacy.

Meanwhile, two separate protests aimed at the Buenos Aires government today have added to the transport disruption in the centre of the city. The Federation of Cartoneros and Recyclers marched to the City Ministry for Environment and Public Spaces to protest against proposed changes to rubbish collection.

At the same time, social organisations and residents of Villa Lugano have gathered on Av 9 de Julio near the Obelisco in protest at the razing of the Barrio Papa Francisco slum on the weekend.

General Strike

Wednesday’s chaos comes just hours before the start of a 24 hour general strike held by opposition factions of the General Workers Confederation (CGT) led by Hugo Moyano and Luis Barrionuevo.

The strike will heavily affect transport, with all services on overground trains, the subte B line, and domestic flights suspended. Buses will be running a partial service: the Road Transport Union (UTA) – which governs the majority of urban and intercity bus lines – has decided not the join the strike, but the rival Bus Drivers Union (UCRA) has said it will, and could disrupt other services. Taxi drivers will be working.

Other services to be suspended include non-emergency treatment at hospitals, rubbish collection (this evening), banks, petrol stations, postal services, and affiliated bars and restaurants. Many schools in the city and province of Buenos Aires will also be closed as several teachers’ unions join the strike action.

For more information and updates of the strike and how it will affect you tomorrow, follow us on Facebook or Twitter.

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Subte Workers to Strike on Thursday Morning

New subte station San José de Flores opened today on the A line (photo: Beatrice Murch)

Buenos Aires subte (photo: Beatrice Murch)

Subte workers will strike for two hours, between 5 and 7am, tomorrow. Service will be suspended on all six lines as employees demand better safety conditions.

The protest comes almost two weeks after the Metropolitan Police took over policing duties on subte stations from the Federal Police on 1st June.

According to the subte workers, up until 31st May the Federal Police had 700 agents working on subte stations, whilst the Metropolitan Police now has 300. After a robbery last week at the Castro Barros station, on the A line, workers demand that ticket windows be protected with safety glass.

Roberto Pianelli, Secretary General of the Subte and Premetro Workers’ Union (AGTSyP), said: “This conflict isn’t new, we’ve been warning [subte owner] SBASE and [operator] Metrovías since March 2013 that they needed to do something about the withdrawal of the Federal Police, because ticket booths handle a lot of money and none of them have safety glass.”

Metrovías and SBASE held a meeting this afternoon with the City’s Labour Undersecretary to try and resolve the conflict, whilst the union has been called for a meeting tomorrow at noon.


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Workers’ Conflict Continues at Gestamp Auto Parts Factory

Gestamp workers speak outside the factory earlier today (photo: Gestamp union press)

Gestamp workers speak outside the factory earlier today (photo: Gestamp union press)

A conflict between workers and the Gestamp auto parts company continued without a resolution today, despite a mandatory conciliation issued by the Buenos Aires provincial government.

The dispute began last week after nine workers that were among 67 laid off by the company occupied the plant in Escobar, north of Buenos Aires, blocking operations. On Saturday, the provincial Labour Ministry ordered a conciliation for 15 days to end the protests and reincorporate the workers while negotiations can continue to reach a permanent solution.

The agreement, signed by Gestamp and the workers, was set to come into force today, but workers say the company is still not letting them enter the factory for reasons of “health and safety”. However, workers accused the company of failing to comply with the order, and maintaining an illegal “lock out”.

“The company told us that there would be no production today because they are supposedly sorting out the machinery,” said one of the nine protesters, Roberto Amador. “We don’t believe them – they had all weekend to do that. The company is manoeuvring to not comply with the mandatory conciliation.”

The workers’ protest has been supported by various social organisations and leftist political parties, though also drew criticism from other quarters.

Cabinet Chief Jorge Capitanich said this morning that “political actions or illegal measures prevent an industry from functioning.” The conflict has disrupted production at major auto plants – including Volkswagen, Ford and Peugeot-Citroën – that have not received parts from Gestamp.

On Saturday, President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner urged the provincial government to act to bring an end to the dispute, adding that workers do not defend their jobs by “occupying or damaging factories.”

There was also criticism from the Union of Mechanics and Auto Sector Workers (SMATA), which has declared itself in a state of “alert and mobilisation”. SMATA leader Ricardo Pignanelli said the protest was backed by political parties Partido Obrero (PO) and Partido de los Trabajadores Socialistas (PTS), and threatened the jobs of hundreds of other workers.

Amador rejected these claims today, saying Pignanelli was a “serial liar”. Speaking about the occupation, Amador added that: “We showed the company, SMATA, and the provincial and national governments that the workers’ struggle will triumph over all of those who want to bear the burden of the crisis.”


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Brazil: Police in 14 States Go On Strike

Federal Highway Police take part in an assembly in Rio (photo: Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil)

Federal Highway Police take part in an assembly in Rio (photo: Fernando Frazão/Agência Brasil)

Police in 14 Brazilian states are striking today, demanding improvements in their working conditions. The 24-hour strike comes just 22 days before the beginning of the football World Cup.

Later on today, at 3pm local time, police unions will stage a protest in the capital city of Brasilia, where they will be joined by the federal police. The military police have announced they are not joining the strike or the protest.

It is estimated that, in some states, up to 70% of police agents could join the strike. The states affected are Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Minas Gerais, Bahia, Pernambuco, Amazonas — all of which will hold World Cup games — Alagoas, Espírito Santo, Mato Grosso do Sul, Pará, Paraíba, Rondônia, Santa Catarina, and Tocantins.

Upon announcing the strike, Janio Gandra, secretary general of the Brazilian Confederation of Civilian and Police Workers, said: “Do you know what will be the legacy of the World Cup for public safety? None. Crime rates will go down during the event and then everything will return to normal.” He accused the government of not having “a safety project aimed towards the interests of citizens, those who live here and pay their taxes, and they will remain unsafe” after the World Cup.Justice Minister Jose Eduardo Cardozo had said on 30th April that “the armed forces cannot legally strike. For that legal reason and because I don’t think that policemen who have sworn to respect their nation will want to expose their country to an unacceptable situation before the world, I don’t think they will strike during the World Cup.”

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Government Declares Mandatory Conciliation on Sarmiento Conflict

Union leader Rubén 'Pollo' Sobrero (photo: Twitter)

Union leader Rubén ‘Pollo’ Sobrero (photo: Twitter)

The Labour Ministry declared a mandatory conciliation to put an end to the eight-day conflict that is affecting the service of the Sarmiento train line. The union faction led by Rubén ‘Pollo’ Sobrero, which is demanding a wage increase and compensation for its workers, will have to refrain from protesting for 15 working days.

The Ministry considered the protests “an abuse of the right to strike”, as they are being carried out before the beginning of the wage negotiations, and indicated that the compensations over the transfer of the train operating company into state hands which the union is demanding is “not applicable”.

Sobrero commented on the matter on his Twitter account today, saying that “we accept [the mandatory conciliation] subject to a vote at the general assembly” of the Sarmiento workers which is being held now. The meeting had been called before the Ministry’s announcement, to decide whether to carry out a 24-hour strike tomorrow. Sobrero added that “Today marks the end of the first part of our struggle! A negotiation opportunity which we have been waiting for since the first day has been opened!”On Wednesday, Interior Minister Florencio Randazzo and President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner will introduce the new trains purchased from China for the Sarmiento line. The ceremony was going to take place today, but was cancelled as the president clear her schedule to accompany her mother, who is undergoing surgery, at the hospital.

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Latin America News Roundup: 1st April 2014

Costa Rica drought (photo: Manuel Kasper-Claridge)

Costa Rica drought (photo: Manuel Kasper-Claridge)

Costa Rica Votes to Protect Water as ‘Public Good’: The legislative assembly in Costa Rica voted last night overwhelmingly in favour of a new Water Resources Management Bill designed to regulate the use and control of water. The law, which requires a second vote, establishes water as a public good, and access to it as a basic human right. The bill will also create at National Water Directorate (DINA) to manage state control over water resources and prevent the privatisation and export of the good. The bill was developed as a popular initiative, after being originally presented by environmental groups that had gathered more than 150,000 signatures, equally 5% of the electorate. Costa Rica is vulnerable to rising temperatures, which could create major water shortages in the country’s northwest, according to the IPCC. Recent local studies highlighted the threat the the country could lose up to 85% of its drinking water supply in the next 50 years.

Bolivia – Government Postpones Mining Law Debate After Protest Deaths: President Evo Morales today ordered the suspension of a Senate debate over a new mining law after violent protests left two dead. “To avoid unnecessary and violent actions by mining co-operatives we have decided to postpone the debate over the new Mining Law,” said Presidential Minister Juan Ramón Quintana in a statement earlier today. Yesterday, mining cooperatives blocked major roads, including accesses to La Paz, in protest again a modification to the Mining Law, which has already been approved by the lower house of Congress. Violence erupted when security forces moved in to clear the roads, with two protesters shot dead and around 20 police officers injured. The new law would permit only the Bolivian state to sign contracts with private investors to exploit natural resources, effectively banning cooperatives – which have special tax benefits – from doing so. The independent mining sector, made up of approximately 100,000 miners, is a traditional ally of the Bolivian government.

Brazil – Work on São Paulo World Cup Stadium Suspended: Construction on the Arena Corinthians stadium in São Paulo has been halted “indefinitely” after the death of a worker on the weekend. The Regional Supervisory Office for Work and Employment in São Paulo state suspended construction work on two temporary stands at stadium after finding security flaws during an inspection earlier today. “We will only continue with the construction when there is a guarantee that workers can operate in safe conditions,” said the Supervisory Office representative Luiz Antonio Medeiros. On Saturday, Fábio Hamilton da Cruz became the seventh person fatality during construction work at world cup stadiums, and the third at the Arena Corinthians, which is scheduled to host the opening match on 12th June.

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Argentina News Roundup: 26th March 2014

Hotel Bauen on Callao by Corrientes (Photo: Sam Verhaert)

Hotel Bauen on Callao by Corrientes (Photo: Sam Verhaert)

Bauen Hotel Cooperative To Be Evicted: A judge ordered the eviction of the Bauen Hotel, run by a workers’ cooperative, in order to give it back to its original owners. Judge Paula Maria Hualde gave the members of the Buenos Aires Work Cooperative until 18th April to vacate the premises of the hotel, which they re-opened and ran after the original owners abandoned it in 2001. “Legally, we don’t have a choice,” said Federico Tonarelli, ex president of the cooperative and current head of the Argentine Federation of Work Cooperatives. “The sentence is final: as far as the court is concerned, the hotel belongs to Mercoteles and the judge should vacate a company with 130 guys that works really well: it’s crazy. The solution is political, but we can’t see a political will in Congress.” The members of the Bauen cooperative have repeatedly requested an expropriation bill to be passed by Congress: “What we’re saying is that, if the state executes the debts that [original owner] Iurcovich took up to build Bauen, the hotel belongs to the state. And we don’t want the state to just give it to us: let’s look for a solution, be it a lease, a loan, a 20-year mortgage to buy the building.” Following the ruling, Bauen workers are planning a series of protests and events in the coming days.

Monsanto Appeals Rejected: The government of Córdoba rejected two appeals lodged by multinational company Monsanto in order to secure an authorisation to build a seed plant in the town of Malvinas Argentinas. After Monsanto’s environmental impact assessment (EIA) for the proposed plant was rejected by the provincial government, the company appealed first to the Environment Secretariat and then to the Ministry of Water, Environment and Energy, however both instances were rejected. The next step for Monsanto is to carry out a new EIA, however under a new law, they will also need to go through a public hearing or local referendum in order to obtain approval for the plant. Also in Córdoba, the mayor of Río Cuarto issued a decree ratifying the ban on a proposed Monsanto seed experimentation centre in the town, after the company also lodged an appeal asking the local government to re-consider the ban established in November 2013. Mayor Juan Jure’s arguments for the ban are that the EIA presented by the company does not meet the minimum standards required, and that he wants to “preserve harmony in the town and the possibility to keep living peacefully.”

Teachers Protest In Front Of Education Ministry: Thousands of teachers marched to the Education Ministry today, ahead of tomorrow’s meeting with the national government. The protest was organised by national teachers’ union CTERA, but consisted mainly of teachers from the province of Buenos Aires, who are now on their 15th day of strike. CTERA representative Eduardo López highlighted the presence of delegations from Jujuy, La Rioja, Entre Ríos, Río Negro, Corrientes, Chaco, and Tierra del Fuego. Teachers are asking for wage increases higher than those offered by the government so far, which consist of a 22% increase followed by an extra 9% in June and a $3,000 extra payment based on attendance. The unions will meet national government representatives tomorrow at 10am at the Labour Ministry in order to continue with the wage negotiations.

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