Schools throughout the country are closed as teachers represented by Colombia’s Federation of Educators (FECODE) walked out on indefinite strike Wednesday morning.
An estimated 334,000 teachers are participating in the strike, which will cause class cancellations for some 8,700,000 students throughout the country, Caracol Radio reported.
“When there is a strike, there is no labour normality.” FECODE President Luis Grubert told Colombia Reports adding that the strike is indefinite but that he hopes the government will react quickly.
The national teachers strike, the second in the past year, was declared as a last recourse by the union after negotiations with the government failed to produce solutions to the teachers’ longstanding demands, according to a statement released by the union. FECODE representatives had announced the Wednesday strike date Monday night, but met with government officials Tuesday to discuss a potential agreement to avoid a national school shutdown, apparently to no avail.
Grubert said, “There was some progress with the Government. [But] the Board (Fecode) decided that the strike continues. We are collecting recommendations and we talked with the Ministry to discuss the adjustments that must be made to the commitment document to fully meets the interests of the Board and the teachers,” Caracol Radio reported.
Behind the strike are a series of labor grievances that stretches back several years, and served as the motivation behind the most recent strike, which lasted only a couple days last summer. Most prominently, the government owes public school teachers an estimated $40 billion in unpaid wages and benefits.
Grubert told Colombia Reports that government has started to address the debt issue and that the main problems educators are facing now are low wedges, poor health service and the competency evaluation of educators.
A statement released by the union added that the strike is also “in response to the delays that the national government has enacted in the negotiating process since April 22.”
The Education Minister released a statement Wednesday in which he affirmed that competency evaluations are not negotiable, as they are “one of the fundamental pillars of [Colombia’s] education quality.”
- FECODE DECRETÓ HORA CERO DEL PARO NACIONAL DEL MAGISTERIO (press release)
- Declaración de la Ministra de Educación Nacional (Ministry of Education)
- Interview with Luis Grubert (president of Fecode)
- Siguen las negociaciones entre Gobierno y maestros, paro se mantiene (El Tiempo)
- No se logró acuerdo para evitar paro de maestros (Caracol Radio)