Striking teachers in southern Mexico return to class

Union promises to intensify actions if government does not address demands.

 

Nancy Caouette - MEXICO CITY (AA) – Thousands of teachers in southern Mexico who have maintained a strike for more than 100 days returned to school Monday.

The decision came Friday night after a vote by teachers and school employees affiliated with the militant National Coordinator of Education Workers union (CNTE) in Oaxaca state.

“These 111 days of struggle have taught us to organize ourselves. But with the engagement to parents, we have decided to start the new school period,” teacher representative Isabel Garcia Velasco told local media.

The teachers are protesting provisions in an education reform bill and Monday once again asked representatives of President Enrique Pena Nieto’s administration to negotiate.

“The return to school doesn’t mean abandoning our struggle. About 20 percent of our members will maintain the sit-in in the city of Oaxaca while 10 percent of our members will do the same in Mexico City,” Garcia told Proceso magazine.

She said teachers would engage in more radical protests if they don’t receive “clear answers” from the government to their demands.

The teachers have organized sit-ins, protests, blocked highways and set fire to public buildings to object to education reform measures passed in 2013 that includes mandatory tests for educators that they must pass in order to keep their jobs.

The CNTE contends that the exam is discriminatory in that it does not take into account the social and cultural environments in which teachers in the southern state work. Many schools do not have basic supplies or even electricity.

Members refused to go back to classes two weeks ago in protest of the government’s decision to reject their demands.

In response, the government threatened to fire 1,255 workers. It also said negotiations would not continue as long as teachers were in the streets.

According to the CNTE, the federal government has sent in replacement workers to break the strike and to weaken the union.

Classes will officially begin Wednesday in Oaxaca after teachers meet with parents and process students’ registrations.

The government said Monday that it could be willing to talk with the teachers.

“Once the classes would have begun on Wednesday, we could open again a dialogue with the teachers in the coming days,” Public Education Secretary Aurelio Nuno said during a news conference, adding that the reform measures would not be “abrogated nor changed”.

The return to work in Oaxaca did not alter job actions in other southern states where teachers’ strikes continue on a smaller scale in Chiapas, Guerrero and Michoacan states.

The CNTE will hold a national assembly Tuesday to decide if its members will continue strikes in other parts of the country.


 

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