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  • Education workers strike to demand better wages in Argentina.

    Education workers strike to demand better wages in Argentina. | Photo: Alba Movimientos

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The government of Mauricio Macri faces a 48-hour strike and the lowest approval ratings since taking office.

Argentine teachers kicked off a 48-hour national strike Monday that postponed the scheduled beginning of the classes in the country in order to demand better working conditions and salary increases, an issue that has been a constant point of tension and cause for confrontation with President Mauricio Macri's government.

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Public and private unions have joined the march, which began at 10:00 a.m. local time in Buenos Aires, departing from Congress en route to the Ministry of Education. Several provinces have organized other strikes since January.

The Confederation of Education Workers of the Argentine Republic, also known as CTERA, and the Argentine Union of Private Teachers announced that despite the attempts at dialogues with local governments, they have not been able to reach agreements with the authorities.

The main point of contention is that the Macri government handed decision-making authority on minimum wage policies for teachers over to provincial governments. Teachers, on the other hand, advocate for salary negotiation at a national level.

The teachers have asked for a 35 percent wage increase to compensate for the high inflation rate, which in 2016 reached more than 40 percent in the country.

The majority of the local governments proposed an 18 percent increase that would be paid in four parts, which is roughly US$16 per month in each quarter term, depending on the level of teaching experience.

In the province of Buenos Aires the government has opted to deduct from teachers' salaries for every day of the strike and asked for sanctions against the participating unions.

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President Mauricio Macri was also set to inaugurate Monday classes at the "25 de Mayo" school in Volcan, in the province of Jujuy, even though teachers announced there would be no classes in that province as a result of the strike.

Jujuy shot into the national and international spotlight last year when it became known after Milagro Sala, an Indigenous activist and lawmaker, was jailed in the province for protesting against Jujuy Governor Gerardo Morales.

Meanwhile, for the first time since entering office, Macri's support fell below 40 percent, according to a survey by the Center for Public Opinion Studies. The percentage of Argentines who think highly or very highly of the president sits at 38 percent, while those who think poorly or very poorly surpassed 57 percent.

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