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Administrative staff strike at state universities: Professors may join them next week

ChilNet extract from El Mercurio, La Epoca
22 November 1996

Non-academic staff at Chile's 16 state universities initiated an indefinite strike Thursday and may be joined by professors next week if the government continues to turn a deaf ear to their concerns.

The National Association of State University Workers, Antue, which represents some 26,000 university employees, left administration offices yesterday to demand recognition from the government as public employees and the full payment of promised salary raises.

The Organization of University Professors' Associations, comprised of 15,000 academics, will decide over the weekend if the "days of reflection" they initiated yesterday will become an indefinite strike by Monday.

Both groups agree that since 1980, when the military rulers de-regulated universities, state institutions of higher learning have been excluded from the law of public employee salary adjustments.

The government and the Central Union of Workers agreed last week on a salary adjustment of 9.9 percent for public employees. In the case of state universities, however, the government will only contribute a portion of that total. To make up the difference, The University of Chile, for example, will have to allocate an estimated $700 million pesos (US$1.6 million) of its own.

Antue president Aldo Alfaro repudiated "all attempts from university authorities to cover budget deficits by raising student fees and dismissing personnel." He warned that the mobilization will conclude only once the Ministry of Education forms a table for dialogue with government, unions, and university chancellors.

Ivan Saavedra, president of the Professors' Organization, said "the Parliament wants us to modernize but governs us with laws that date from 1980." Education Minister Jose Pablo Arrellana's speech during the University of Chile anniversary ceremony gave them reason for optimism, affirmed Saavedra, but now "the government refuses to talk to us, ... when they already have had bad experiences for their refusal to talk with teachers, health care workers, and municipal employees."

According to Saavedra, the content of a bill the Education Ministry drafted to aid state universities is unknown to either professors or administrative staff because they have not had any input in its development. *

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