Thousands of teachers in the Argentine province of Buenos Aires vowed to continue their strike on Thursday during a massive protest in the provincial capital of La Plata.
The demonstration — which was joined by health care workers and social movement organizations — marked the eighth day of walkouts by education workers in the province and a local continuation of a multi-day national teachers' strike last week.
Members of the Union of Education Workers, or Suteba, and the Teachers' Union of Buenos Aires, or Udocba, also vowed to continue their strike in spite of the efforts by Governor Maria Vidal — known as the "Margaret Thatcher of Argentina" — to divide workers.
"(This government) is used to the idea that everything can be bought or sold, but the dignity of workers is not for sale," Roberto Baradel, the head SUTEBA, told thousands gathered outside the provincial capitol building.
On Wednesday, Vidal vowed to levy fines against striking workers while promising salary bonuses to those workers who do not participate in the job action.
Leaders from both Suteba and Udocba vowed to continue their strike, while representatives from three of the six education worker unions in the province participated in legally-mandated conciliation talks with the government over demands for salary increases.
"We don't want to destabilize anyone. Those who are disrupting are those who destabilize the lives of our families with their economic policies. We aren't afraid. We don't have a price. They can't break us," declared Baradel.
The unions are demanding a 35 percent salary increase and a guarantee that no education worker will make less than the poverty line.
The demand comes after the national government of Mauricio Macri legislated a ceiling of 20 percent salary increases despite an inflation rate of 40 percent — created by neoliberal economic policies — which have pushed 1.4 million people, including many education workers, into poverty.
The unions are also demanding a return to national level salary negotiations after a recent decision by the Macri administration to devolve teachers' salaries to the provinces.
Alejandro Finocchiaro, Buenos Aires' education minister, said that a recent offer to increase salaries by 18 percent – well below the rate of inflation – meant that the continued strike is an artificial continuation of a conflict that has no meaning, that is irrational, that has a savagery such that has not been seen since 1988."
The provincial strike continues as representatives from Argentina's largest labor federation have called for a national general strike for April 6.