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Teachers threaten new strike: If Ministry of Education does not provide raisis agreed upon

ChilNet extract from La Epoca
19 November 1996

A month and a half after public school teachers staged one of the biggest strikes in recent history, the union is again threatening to halt work over the payment of salary increases.

The Ministry of Education and the Teachers' Union ended the strike in mid October with an agreement that the government would pay approximately US$7.3 million in total base salary increases in 1997 and double that amount in 1998.

Teachers' Union President Jorge Pavez said Monday, however, that teachers will not finish out the school year if the government does not deliver the US$7.3 million in full.

The conflict is over "deductions" which the government must make in paying out the funds. The union says the deductions which could amount to almost US$2 million are the government's responsibility. Pavez said there was no mention at the time the October strike concluded that the deductions would be taken out of the US$7.3 million. "It was not in the agreement," said the union leader.

"We know the law... and we knew about this situation," Pavez said Monday. "Our position is based strictly on the signed agreement, which states there will be (US$7.3 million) to finance salaries... . If they break the agreement, we are clearly in a conflict situation."

Education Minister Jose Pablo Arellano said he was surprised at the union's statements, but the issue is not a new one and the ministry has discussed it with union leaders. Arellano said the deductions are a result of the remuneration formula chosen by the teachers which is based on national minimum salary increases and recalled that the government offered other mechanisms to resolve the strike.

"There is no guarantee that using this mechanism 100 percent of the funds will arrive in whole to the beneficiaries," Minister Arellano added. "The ministry fully respects and is going to respect the agreement it signed."

Union President Pavez said he and Arellano agreed Friday "to make all efforts this week with the technical teams to strive for a compromise between the parties."

The bill which would deliver the raises to the teachers should be ready no later than next week, Arellano said. "If it is necessary to meet (with the professors) to clarify points, we are going to do so," he said. *

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