Chilean teachers vote to end strike after seven weeks of mobilization

The representatives of the teachers’ union vowed to continue fighting for the pending demands.

July 24, 2019 by Tanya Wadhwa
“For the defense of public education”. (Photo: Colegio de Profesores de Chile)

On July 22, in the latest national teachers’ consultation organized by the teachers’ union, Colegio de Profesores de Chile (CPC), thousands of Chilean teachers voted to end the strike that they had been carrying out since June 3.

67.37% of teachers voted for the option to end the strike, delegating the CPC the responsibility to prepare an action and mobilization plan to achieve the pending issues while 32.63% of the teachers voted for the option to continue the strike.

Mario Aguilar, the president of the CPC, thanked the citizens for their support and teachers for carrying out an impressive strike. He commented, “It has been an extraordinary movement, a movement that received enormous support from the citizens, a movement that forced an arrogant government to improve its tone and treat us with respect, a movement that established a democratic form of decision making, that decisions are taken with everyone’s participation, a movement that we’re proud of, a movement because of which we take the responsibility to continue the peaceful struggle, not because there are pending issues, which we will not give up, but also because the citizens see us, the teachers, as representatives and we will respond to this requirement of our citizens to organize, raise and carry forward the major issues facing the Chilean society.”

“This decision is not taken because we are satisfied with the education ministry’s response. We are not satisfied with the ministry’s proposal because there are crucial issues that are pending and we will continue to fight for these issues,” he clarified.

The decision to hold teachers’ consultation to decide whether to continue the indefinite strike or not, was agreed upon in the national assembly held on July 17. The assembly was attended by thousands of teachers from throughout Chile. In the assembly, it was reiterated that the latest proposal made by the Ministry of Education (MINEDUC) was unsatisfactory and the strike would continue until the teachers decide otherwise.

For the last seven weeks, over 90,000 primary and secondary education teachers were on an indefinite strike in defense of public education. The MINEDUC in its latest proposal refused to address three of the twelve primary demands: payment of the long-standing teachers’ debt (the payment owed to retired teachers since the time of Augusto Pinochet’s dictatorship), payment of a special bonus to special educators and primary teachers and against the curriculum changes that make subjects like History, Physical Education and Arts optional instead of compulsory for third and fourth grade.

The CPC vowed to continue fighting for the pending demands. Just last week, on July 15, the CPC filed an official complaint against the curriculum modifications in the Comptroller’s office. Through the document, the union requested the entity not to acknowledge the changes suggested by the education ministry as they do not fulfill the General Education Law, which ensures that teaching in the school system must be comprehensive and equal. The same day, a tallarinata (a feast with noodles) was held outside the MINEDUC and with the participation of hundreds of teachers.

In addition, on July 18, the Education Commission of the Chilean Senate approved the first draft of the bill of designation of extended hours from contract to title. The bill was introduced by the government with high urgency -given the pressure due to the strike- and is expected to be processed quickly in Congress. This legal initiative will provide job stability to teachers employed on precarious contracts who, in addition to their entitled working hours, perform a part of their job during the time for which they are not paid (such as long summer break or winner break).